Having a healthy circulation is vital to the effective functioning of your body. If your blood vessels become damaged or diseased, this can restrict blood flow to the body’s tissues and organs, depleting them of oxygen and much-needed nutrients.
Vascular disease, the medical term for diseases of the veins and arteries, most commonly affects the arteries of the heart, brain and legs.
One of the main causes of this disease is the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to a build-up of fatty substances called ‘plaques’. If a plaque ruptures, it can cause a blood clot. This blood clot can block the blood supply to the heart, triggering a heart attack, or it can restrict blood supply to the brain, triggering a stroke. Narrowing of the arteries in the legs, meanwhile, can restrict blood flow to the feet resulting in gangrene or amputation. This is known as peripheral arterial disease.
Here are 10 warning signs that you may have something wrong with your circulatory system:
1) Painful cramps:
You may experience painful cramps in in your hip, thigh or calf muscles during activity, which gets better after rest. Typically the pain comes on each time after the same amount of exercise (eg walking the same distance at the same pace).
2) Numbness, weakness and swelling:
Lack of blood supply to the extremities can result in feelings of weakness and numbness in these areas. When poor blood circulation interferes with the kidneys, it can lead to abnormal swelling, particularly in the hands and feet.
3) Varicose veins:
When the valves in the vein become weakened, blood and pressure builds up causing the veins just below the surface of the skin to twist and swell. They are usually blue or purple in colour and appear near the feet and ankles.
4) Exhaustion and feeling cold:
When blood supply is restricted, the body lacks the fuel it needs to maintain optimum energy and temperature levels, leading to lethargy and feeling colder than normal.
5) Poor cognitive function:
The brain relies on blood flow to function properly, so reduced blood flow may result in difficulty concentrating and problems with short and long-term memory.
6) Weak immune system:
Since the antibodies required to fight off infection become sluggish when blood flow is restricted, you may find that you get ill more often and any cuts and grazes take longer to heal.
7) Hair loss and weak nails:
The health of your skin, hair and nails is a key component in determining whether your body is getting the right nutrition. Your skin may feel dry, your nails brittle and your hair may become thin and fall out.
When blood flow slows down throughout the body, it can lead to slower digestive processes, leading to constipation.
9) Erectile dysfunction:
Men who have poor circulation may experience difficulties getting an erection due to insufficient blood flow in the reproductive organs.
This symptom is indicated by a tight, heavy feeling in the chest – which sometimes radiates across the arms, neck, jaw or back. It occurs when blood flow is restricted to the muscles of the heart.