Causes for Circulatory InsufficiencyCirculatory insufficiency isn't a disease in and of itself. Poor blood circulation occurs as a result of underlying health issues, and you might have already guessed that these can be quite serious.
When blood circulates normally, oxygen and nutrients are carried to every cell of your body in order to sustain you. If circulation doesn’t occur properly, long-term damage begins. The longer you experience circulatory problems, the more your health will suffer.
While it's impossible to completely control all aspects of your health, there are always changes you can make in order to improve the quality and length of your life. For example, if you have a family history of disease or illness, you should consider eliminating the behaviors that have been shown to increase your risk.
Circulatory problems are no different. They can arise from a variety of underlying factors, and most can be kept under control with proper intervention.
Without a checkup from your doctor, it won't be possible to pinpoint the exact cause of your circulatory issues, however, there are several pervasive lifestyle risk factors for developing poor circulation. These are obesity, poor food choices, lack of physical activity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
When managed early on, the diseases that can lead to poor circulation are treatable and even reversible. However, left unmanaged, circulatory illnesses will progress and lead to life-threatening complications.
Varicose Veins & Chronic Venous InsufficiencyImproper blood flow might initially be symptomless or be quite obvious. Varicose veins are one of the most obvious signs of improper blood flow. Varicose veins are caused when valves that control blood flow malfunction and circulation becomes insufficient. This malfunction often leads to a secondary condition called chronic venous insufficiency, because oxygen, waste and nutrients aren't properly exchanged.
Risk factors for varicose veins include:
- Standing jobs
Although every person with a standing desk will tout the benefits of working upright, it’s unlikely that anyone’s ever spent eight hours a day, five days a week on their feet in front of a monitor. And that’s actually a good thing because jobs that require excessive periods of standing, such as at a cash register, can lead to CVI, particularly if the person is overweight. Sitting on a fitness ball such as this one is a great alternative to traditional office chairs or standing desks. A fitness ball engages your core and will ensure that you move about regularly while seated. In addition, it’s recommended that you step away from your desk every two hours for a quick stretch.
CVI is a chronic condition that can be treated but is not curable.
Peripheral Artery Disease & AtherosclerosisAnother common cause of poor circulation is peripheral artery disease (PAD), in which blood flow to the extremities is reduced. PAD is often accompanied by a condition called atherosclerosis, where plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries and blood vessels and causes them to harden. Atherosclerosis is directly linked with high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol, because these cause damage to the lining of blood vessels. The damage causes plaque to build up, narrowing the artery and impeding blood flow. If the plaque loosens, it can trigger a blood clot to form, which narrows the artery even further.
One symptom shared by most PAD-sufferers is pain, cramping and fatigue in the legs or hips while walking. Unfortunately, many patients do not discover atherosclerosis until an actual blockage has occurred.
Risk factors for PAD and atherosclerosis are:
- Poor diet
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
Blood ClotsBlood clots may sit quietly for long periods of time without causing any real noticeable symptoms at all before dislodging and causing serious pain. Blood clots can be caused by a range of factors, including atherosclerosis, which we already discussed above. Other risks for developing blood clots are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Birth control pills
- Prolonged immobility
Unlike physical inactivity, prolonged immobility doesn’t refer to a lack of regular exercise, but rather to how long a person sits in one position. That means, even otherwise healthy people can become susceptible to blood clots when they don’t move around regularly.
If you use airline travel for work, you are more susceptible to blood clots and circulatory problems because it's generally much more inconvenient to get up and move around during a flight, especially if you're finding yourself with a steady stream of cocktails and unlimited free movies. Any flight lasting more than 4 hours puts you at risk. It is recommended you move about frequently.
Deep Vein ThrombosisIf a blood clot develops in the veins deep within the body, the condition is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Similarly to a superficial blood clot, DVT may be symptomless for long periods of time. However, if a deep-vein clot dislodges, it can travel to the lungs and be life-threatening.
DVT also causes venous insufficiency.
Many of the risks we’ve discussed can be avoided through lifestyle changes. However, some risks, such as diabetes, can only be managed.
DiabetesIf you have Type 1 diabetes and your body cannot make insulin, it’s vital to check your blood sugar often, eat the right foods to avoid blood sugar spikes and inject insulin when needed.
Remember that insulin isn’t a magic ingredient. A lifetime of repeated exposure to high blood sugar will ultimately cause irreparable damage to blood vessels, putting you at a much higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. Maintaining a healthy diet is a vital part of diabetes management.
Circulatory issues can present in a variety of ways and sometimes not at all. Knowing your risks is half the battle.
Symptoms if Circulatory Insufficiency IllnessesWe've all woken up to a tingling arm after sleeping on our side for too long, or had that pesky pin-and-needle feeling take the skip out of our step after sitting the wrong way, but when numbness, tingling or pain - particularly in the extremities - are an everyday occurrence, it's time to take a closer look.
Occasional numbness is normal; we temporarily cut off blood supply to fingers or toes by sitting too long or bending the wrong way, but when numbness becomes a part of your everyday life, you may have a circulatory problem.
Treatment for poor circulation is widely varied and may include medications, compression garments and surgery. The best way to ensure a long and healthy life without complications from circulatory diseases is prevention.
To prevent blood clots, PAD, hardening of the arteries and arterial insufficiency:
Reduce body fat, particularly in the belly region
Keep blood sugar levels normal
Keep cholesterol and blood pressure low
Take your medications as prescribed
Move about frequently when sitting at work or on a plane
Being aware that certain lifestyle factors automatically increase your risks of developing circulatory illnesses, whether you're predisposed to them or not, should help you make better choices regarding diet, exercise and lifestyle. Knowing your risks, changing your lifestyle and listening to your body can help you avoid irreversible damage from progressive illnesses that manifest as circulatory issues.