Promoting good circulation
By Constance Garcia-Barrio
If your shoes fit beautifully in the morning but pinch by the evening, it may signal a health problem. “Swollen feet, legs and ankles may mean an issue with circulation,” said Eric Choi, M.D., chief of vascular and endovascular surgery at Temple University Hospital. “A sock line, or indentation where the top of your sock stops, may likewise point to difficulties with circulation.” Circulation – the movement of blood through the body – is vital: It distributes oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells and removes waste such as carbon dioxide.
Sometimes, people with circulation issues feel heaviness in their legs without any swelling, noted Rashad Choudry, M.D., chief of vascular surgery in the Einstein Healthcare Network. “Numbness, tingling, or pain in the legs when walking are also signs of problems with circulation,” Choudry said.
Advanced age puts people at greater risk for difficulties with circulation, Choi noted, but you can take steps to help remedy mild circulation- related swelling. “Wear compression hose or put pillows under your feet at night to elevate them and encourage the blood flow,” he said. “Some people put blocks under the foot of the bed for that reason.”
Movement is important, Choi said. “Above all, start walking,” he advised. “Walking is essential to good circulation and good health. Flexing your feet while you’re working at a desk or watching TV also promotes better circulation. On the same principle, get up to walk and stretch if you’re on a long plane ride, and take rest stops to exercise during long drives.”
Choudry has a message for those who smoke: “Quit smoking to improve your circulation and your health in general,” he said. “Some patients tell me that they smoke only one or two cigarettes a day, but it’s still risky behavior. One cigarette can escalate to five or six when you’re under stress. Smoking is an addiction, and life challenges can trigger more use of tobacco.”
Certain underlying health conditions make it advisable to keep an especially close eye on your circulation, doctors say. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or kidney disease, your circulation bears watching to avoid complications.
Some symptoms warrant consulting your doctor immediately. If you have sudden or continual swelling in your legs or swelling or pain in your legs even when resting, see yourphysician, experts advise. A sore or wound that doesn’t heal also requires medical evaluation.
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