Proper blood flow throughout the body is necessary for delivering essential nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to cells. The purpose of heart circulation is to pump blood to every cell of every tissue that requires it, while blood vessels are the transportation system that carries this blood. The two types of vessels that mainly transport blood in the body are the arteries and the veins.
While our arteries carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, our veins drain blood from our organs, only to be transported back to the heart and reoxygenated. There is another drainage system in the body, known as the Lymphatic System. It helps drain liquid from around cells, known as tissue fluid, back into our bloodstream, preventing fluid accumulation.
Overall our blood circulation system can be classified into two types: 1) the pulmonary system and 2) systemic circulation. The pulmonary system is responsible for pumping blood from the heart to the lungs, where it absorbs oxygen and gives out carbon dioxide. While systemic circulation is responsible for pumping blood from the heart to the rest of the body via the large vessel called aorta.
When blood flow is disturbed for any reason, it can lead to poor blood circulation in the body. Since blood is the most important medium that provides all tissues and organs with the nutrients they require to keep working, poor blood circulation may lead to many pathological changes in the body.
Symptoms of Poor Blood Circulation
When an individual is suffering from poor blood circulation, they may experience a number of symptoms that can be detected by a health professional during a regular checkup.
Poor blood circulation may present as:
- A loss of pulse in the affected areas
- The feeling of slight to moderate pain when pressure is applied to an area
- Skin paleness
- Gradual loss of hair
- Reduction in muscle size
- Cold skin
- Cyanosis of the skin (bluish discoloration)
- Ischemic Rest Pain (burning pain in the soles of the feet)
Causes of Poor Blood Circulation
There are a number of health conditions and lifestyle factors that can lead to the development of poor blood circulation in the body. These poor blood circulation causes include:
- Atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries)
- Pulmonary Embolism (arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot)
- Deep Venous Thrombosis (blood clot in a vein)
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Raynaud’s Disease (decreased blood flow to the fingers and other body extremities)
- Varicose Veins
Smoking: Smoking may induce changes in the blood vessels which increase the risk for developing atherosclerosis (the thickening or hardening of the arteries). This is caused by chemical damage to the internal structure of our arteries, by the accumulation of plaque, potentially blocking blood supply.
Obesity: Individuals who are overweight and obese may have increased sympathetic nerve activity in their bodies, which causes blood vessels to appear more constricted as compared to healthy weight individuals. The constriction of blood vessels interferes with blood supply and increases the risk for metabolic conditions.
Hypertension: When an individual has uncontrolled hypertension, the constant high pressure exerted on blood vessels can weaken them. This makes it harder for blood to move through our vessels and reach all the areas that the body requires.
Peripheral Artery Disease: Peripheral Artery Disease is one of the most common causes of poor circulation in body extremities. It is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which causes blood to be cut off from legs and feet.
How Does Heart Circulation Work?
Heart circulation is a critical bodily function. Our heart maintains blood circulation all over the body, allowing all tissues to be supplied with ample oxygen and nutrients. The heart rate of a healthy individual is usually within the range of 60 to 80 beats per minute. With every beat of the heart, it pumps blood all over the body and keeps the blood circulation regulated. This circulation increases with activities like exercise, making our heart beat faster.
Once our blood reaches nutrient and energy-deprived tissues, it gets drained out in the veins and goes back to the right atrium of the heart. Heart circulation then causes the blood to move from the right atrium to the ventricle on the same side and is then pumped to the lungs. After being oxygenated in the lungs, our blood then once again enters the heart and flows into the left atrium. From the left atrium, it then moves down to the ventricle and then is finally pumped to supply the rest of the body.
Nitric Oxide and Healthy Circulation
Nitric oxide is a gas known for its therapeutic properties and essential roles in the body. It is produced in a variety of ways by a number of tissues like enzymatic activity of the amino acid L-Arginine. Nitric Oxide is often linked to circulation in the body. According to experts, nitric oxide can do this by increasing nutrient and oxygen flow and regulating vascular tone.
Poor blood circulation has many symptoms and causes; however, a plant-based diet fueled by movement and exercise can fuel improvements for years to come.
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