If you are living with diabetes, you likely already know that you need to keep your blood sugar levels under control through diet, exercise, and in some cases, medication. However, did you know that maintaining good circulation is just as important? Proper blood flow ensures that oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to the cells in all your organs and tissues so that they can continue to perform their vital functions.
Complications associated with poor circulation
Poor circulation is a significant concern for people living with diabetes as it can increase the risk of:
- Nerve damage (neuropathy), which causes loss of sensation and shooting pain in hands and feet
- Infections or ulcers of the foot, which can lead to amputation of a toe, foot, or leg
- Blood vessel damage, which can result in diabetic retinopathy (vision loss) and organ damage such as kidney disease
Symptoms of poor circulation
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a compromised circulatory system is critical to avoiding long-term complications. Watch out for:
- Cold hands and feet that look pale (skin discoloration)
- Dry or cracked skin, especially on the feet
- Wounds that heal very slowly or not at all
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
Ways to improve circulation
Fortunately, there are at least few steps you can take to improve blood circulation and maintain a healthy blood flow.
Wear diabetic socks
Wearing the right socks is a simple habit that can make all the difference. Diabetic socks apply pressure to the feet and calves, improving blood flow. They also provide seamless comfort and the right amount of compression without restricting blood flow or creating friction. But not all socks work! For example, Circufiber diabetic socks are backed by science and proven toimprove blood circulation in the feet and lower legs of those living with diabetes. Circufiber has also been shown to reduce diabetes-related foot pain, blisters, moisture, and pressure.
Regular exercise is essential for those living with diabetes. That’s because exercise increases your heart rate and helps to get your blood pumping through the body.Research supports that exercise is an effective strategy for improving circulation and increasing the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. In the long term, exercising can improve overall endothelial function, supporting blood flow, blood pressure, and heart health. Cardiovascular activities – those that get your heart beating faster – such as brisk walking, running, biking, and swimming are excellent choices.
Smoking has a profound impact on blood circulation and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals such as nicotine and carbon monoxide that restrict blood flow and reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches tissues and organs. Smoking also causes the blood to become thicker and stickier, making it more prone to clotting, which can further restrict blood flow. This affects the blood’s ability to reach your extremities, such as your legs and feet. Over time, it can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Watch your cholesterol
High cholesterol levels can narrow and harden your arteries, limiting blood flow. Keeping your blood cholesterol at normal levels can prevent this from happening. Adopting a heart-healthy diet is a natural and effective way to lower cholesterol levels. A heart-healthy diet consists of high-fiber foods, which help remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream, and healthy fats, which can lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce plaque build-up in the arteries and are essential to a heart-healthy diet.
- High-fiber: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Healthy fats: fish, seafood, avocado, nuts, seeds, avocado oil, and olive oil
- Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds
Keep blood sugar in check
Managing blood glucose levels is a crucial component of diabetes care and a critical factor in preventing diabetes complications. If not addressed, elevated blood sugar levels cause excess glucose and fatty deposits to accumulate in the blood. This decreases the elasticity of blood vessels, making them more narrow, which impairs blood flow. Poor blood flow reduces oxygen transport, increases blood pressure, and can damage blood vessels. Keeping blood sugar under control (at target levels) and preventing large spikes can go a long way in keeping your blood vessels healthy so that the blood can flow more freely.
It’s normal to experience stress on occasion, but when stress persists over time, it can negatively impact your health. For example, stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, putting you at a higher risk for heart disease. Coping with stress is another way to improve circulation, keep a healthy heart, and decrease disease risk. Stress management tactics include deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and mindfulness exercises like yoga and meditation. Additionally, keeping a healthy work-life balance and adopting new hobbies is also a great way to reduce stress in the long haul.
Keep it flowing
Living with diabetes can feel overwhelming, but luckily, making small changes to your daily habits – as simple as wearing the right socks – can go a long way in preventing future complications. In addition, taking the proper steps to maintain a healthy blood flow can keep your heart, organs, legs, and feet nourished and functioning at their best.
Always consult your physician before beginning any program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider.