Tips to Improving Leg Circulation in Elderly

Optimal blood circulation is an essential aspect of a healthy body. For most people, though, advanced age comes with unique circulation-related challenges. Some older people have problems with blood circulation resulting from medical conditions, lifestyle changes, and age. However, there are numerous steps one can take to enhance their circulation. These include dietary changes, exercises, lifestyle changes, and supplements.

This detailed guide will take you through the dynamics of poor circulation, including its symptoms, causes, prevention, and how to improve leg circulation in the elderly.

Signs of Bad Circulation

Similar to other medical conditions, poor blood circulation comes with a wide range of symptoms [1]. However, keep in mind that one might experience any combination of symptoms and not necessarily all of them. Here are some of the common symptoms.

Changes in Skin Color

When inadequate oxygenated arterial blood reaches the leg’s tissues, the skin tends to turn pale or a shade of blue. Additionally, the skin may turn a shade of purple if there is blood leaking from the capillaries.

Whichever the case, a change in skin color on the legs should be a symptom worth looking into.

Leg Ulcers

The body’s ability to heal is heavily reliant on good blood circulation. When this circulation does not happen in the legs, one can easily develop feet and leg ulcers. Typically, the ulcers occur due to blood pooling in the leg’s veins, causing swelling under the skin.

Varicose Veins

Poor blood circulation can make existing varicose veins more pronounced. This vein condition makes it difficult for blood to flow back to the heart, resulting in symptoms such as swelling, itchiness, leg aches, and heaviness around the feet. This sign is ubiquitous in seniors who spend significantly long periods standing.

Fatigue, Joint Pain, and Muscle Cramping

Insufficient blood supply can result in fatigue in the affected areas. In some cases, poor circulation causes the heart to overwork, further complicating the condition. Additionally, one may experience joint pains as a result of inadequate blood supply. This pain worsens when one remains seated for a significantly long time. On the other hand, muscular cramping comes from insufficient oxygen and nutrient supply to the leg’s tissues.

Numbness and Tingling

When something restricts blood flow to the legs, the person might experience a tingling feeling and numbness. This feeling is similar to the ‘pins or needles’ effect when you lie on your arm for too long.

Coldness on the Feet

When there is insufficient blood supply on the legs, the internal muscle and tissue temperatures fluctuate considerably, resulting in coldness. This explains why some seniors report feeling colder on their feet and arms than the rest of the body.

Swollen Feet

Poor circulation can result in fluid accumulation; a condition referred to as edema. The condition mostly occurs in the feet, ankles, and legs. When the fluid builds up in these areas, the resulting pressure builds up, forcing fluid into the surrounding tissues. The end result is swollen feet or ankles.

Why Do the Elderly Have Poor Circulation?

There are several age and lifestyle-related factors that can contribute to poor circulation among seniors.

Limited Movement

Regular movement and exercises enhance blood flow to the various body parts. For most seniors, though, numerous factors hinder such regular movement. As a result, these seniors’ leg muscles do not move as much as they are supposed to, leading to circulation-related complications.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Normally abbreviated as PAD, this is a blood circulation condition that causes one’s arteries and veins to constrict, reducing the blood flow to the legs and hands. The blood vessels may constrict as a result of any wide-ranging factors. Over time, the constricted vessels might lead to tissue and nerve damage, tingling, and numbness.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is more prevalent in adults over the age of 50, although it can also occur in younger people. If left untreated, PAD can easily result in other medical conditions.

Blood Clots

While blood clots can occur in people of any age, they can be particularly harmful to seniors due to their limited movement and exercise. A blood clot in the legs can restrict blood flow, resulting in inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that appear engorged and gnarled and often by valve failure, obesity, or sedentary lifestyle, among other factors. When this condition occurs on one’s legs, the damaged veins fail to circulate blood as efficiently as the tissues and organs need. This poor circulation, in turn, leads to other problems. It is worth noting that venous insufficiency, one of the causes of varicose veins, can be genetic.

Diabetes

While diabetes is generally known to affect a person’s blood sugar, it can also cause circulation-related problems to specific body parts. The condition can result in cramping on the leg muscles, mainly when one is active. While diabetes can occur in anyone, older people are usually at greater risk [2] since they have been exposed to causative factors for longer than younger people.

Obesity

When one is overweight, the extra pounds can easily result in poor circulation, especially when sitting or standing for hours on end. Again, obesity can occur in varied age groups, but seniors are more susceptible due to their limited exercises and motion.

Raynaud’s Disease

Seniors who experience cold feet and hands may have a condition known as Raynaud’s Disease. This condition causes the tiny arteries in one’s toes and hands to narrow. The constricted arteries are then unable to move blood through the tissues effectively.

How to Improve Circulation Naturally

Like many conditions synonymous with seniors, there are numerous dietary, lifestyle, and exercise changes to enhance blood circulation. Here are some simple circulation improvement techniques.

Aerobics

Aerobic exercises are extremely efficient in enhancing blood flow. For seniors, it might be difficult to engage in high-intensity exercises. However, one can try low-intensity aerobics split into chunks lasting a few minutes each. Walking, jogging, and swimming, if possible, are excellent aerobic exercises. The movements associated with such exercises make the heart stronger and lower blood pressure, resulting in better circulation.

Take a Warm Bath Frequently

A warm bath is always a great way to get your circulation going. The warm water helps widen the veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the tissues. Additionally, you could also try a hot bath for an even better result.

Remain Standing for a While

Most seniors spend large portions of their days seated or lying down. However, it is important to stand for a while to strengthen the leg muscles and improve blood flow to the leg tissues. If you spend time sitting on your desk, consider spending a few minutes carrying out tasks while standing. While it may take some time to get used to this, the blood flow benefits will make the entire endeavor worthwhile.

Relax and Twist

When one moves, it enhances oxygen flow to the cells, while twisting movements enhance blood flow to the organs. For seniors, go for low-intensity movements and twists.

Use Compressor Socks

Compression socks squeeze your leg muscles gently, reducing the possibility of blood lingering in a single spot for long. Due to the resulting compression, the blood can easily move back to the heart. Keep in mind that the optimum pressure and sock length varies from one person to another, depending on the severity of the existing blood circulation condition.

Use Pillows or Bed Wedges

These sleeping aids elevate your legs when you sleep, preventing swelling and enhancing blood circulation. Generally, choose pillows that can elevate your legs above your heart’s level. Additionally, you can make your own elevation sleeping aids by rolling up a blanket.

What Is the Best Natural Remedy For Poor Circulation?

If a person is already experiencing poor blood circulation, there are several natural dietary and lifestyle changes [3] one can take to remedy the situation. Here is a look at some of the best ones.

Under-desk Cycle

An under-desk cycle is a useful device designed for seniors who spend a lot of time sitting. If you are often on your desk or watching television, consider investing in an under-desk cycle to enhance your legs’ blood circulation. The under-desk cycle exercises involve pedaling, whose intensity can be adjusted depending on the user’s needs.

Supplements

There are numerous vitamins and herbs out there that are said to enhance blood flow. However, ensure you talk to a qualified dietician before taking any of these. This consultation will help you avoid problems that arise from supplement-medicine conflicts.

Heating Pads

Heating pads are designed to wrap around one’s body, providing relief to problematic areas. In some instances, these pads can improve blood circulation. When buying a heating pad, consider factors such as size, washability, temperature control, and safety features.

Leg and Foot Massagers

Like heating pads, these massagers are designed to improve blood circulation and enhance pain relief. When choosing the ideal leg massager, consider factors such as comfort, features, pain relief, and safety features.

Dietary Changes

Evidence indicates that some foods can immensely improve blood circulation. However, it is always essential to consult a professional before consuming these products [4] to enhance circulation.

Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnut is said to be as effective in enhancing blood flow as wearing a pair of compression socks. A dietary extract from horse chestnut is used as a supplement for seniors experiencing the effects of poor blood circulation.

Cayenne Pepper

The powdered form of this popular form is said to enhance blood circulation considerably.

Eat Less Meat and More Plants

When it comes to leading a healthy life, there is no single downside to eating a balanced diet. For people with poor circulation, it is essential to consume more vegetables and fruits and less meat. The saturated fats present in most meats can worsen the poor blood flow condition. Additionally, stay away from too much salt. These dietary practices can keep your blood pressure in check, your weight at a good level, and your blood vessels clear.

Keep off Tobacco

Nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes, is harmful to your artery walls. The compound thickens blood vessel walls, making it harder for blood to flow effectively. You can consult a qualified professional on the various methods one can use to get over nicotine addiction.

Drink Lots of Water

Water makes up about half the composition of blood. This implies that one needs to be sufficiently hydrated if circulation is to take place effectively. Water intake needs vary from one person to another, and you might have to consult your dietician or doctor to determine your optimum daily intake.

Conclusion

Poor blood circulation is quite prevalent among aged people. If left unchecked, this condition can easily result in more complicated problems. Luckily, there is a wide range of lifestyle, dietary, and exercise changes one can make to alleviate the problem of poor circulation.

Citations

  1. https://www.cvmus.com/vascular-treatment/poor-circulation-treatment-and-causes
  2. https://aging.com/seniors-and-diabetes-a-complete-guide/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-circulation-in-legs#other-products
  4. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/ss/slideshow-dvt-improve-circulation
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