Importance of blood circulation
What is blood circulation?
The body is a complicated machine, full of strange systems and confusing names for confusing parts. So let’s simplify the subject of blood circulation a bit. The blood circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular system, consists of the heart and all the blood vessels found throughout the body. Arteries carry blood from the heart, while veins carry blood backwards. There are two additional circulatory systems that comprise the cardiovascular system that you need to know about. These are the systemic and pulmonary systems. Systemic circulation is what transports oxygen and nutrient-rich blood through our arteries to our organs, tissues (including our muscles) and cells. When it releases these vital substances, it takes in carbon dioxide and other waste substances (such as lactic acid). Now low on oxygen, the blood is picked up by the veins and transported back to the heart. Pulmonary circulation occurs when we breathe in fresh oxygen and it enters the bloodstream, while carbon dioxide is simultaneously released from the blood.
And so the cycle continues: the heart acts as a pump, carrying oxygenated blood to our organs, and then carrying deoxygenated blood from our organs to our lungs to oxygenate us again.
This is how blood circulation in the body should work. As you can imagine, the circulatory system is vital for everyone, but especially for athletes looking to perform at the limit of their ability. With good blood flow comes good distribution of nutrients, especially oxygen. With the increased amount of oxygen flowing to our muscles, our exercise fatigue time is lengthened, meaning we can move more weight or run/paddle/bend for less time until our muscles force us to stop to rest. Good circulation also helps stabilize body temperature, maintain pH balance, and transport nutrients and waste products to and from cells. If we have a problem with our circulation, our physical ability and overall health will suffer as a result.
The consequences of poor circulation
Poor circulation occurs when blood does not flow freely through the body because of a blockage in the arteries. This is bad news, because it means that your organs (including your heart and brain) are not getting all the nutrients they need to function properly. In addition, your extremities, your legs, feet, hands and arms, will also not receive enough blood. Combined, this can lead to many problems, some of which are life-threatening.
-High blood pressure
Vertigo and dizziness.
– Blood clots
– Carpal tunnel (a condition in which there is excessive pressure on the median nerve. This is the nerve in the wrist that allows you to feel and move parts of your hand).
– Varicose veins (swollen, twisted, and sometimes painful veins that have filled with an abnormal collection of blood)
That’s a pretty long list. In addition to having to deal with the adverse effects of these conditions on a day-to-day basis, a person suffering from poor blood circulation will have difficulty performing athletically. You simply won’t be able to move as much weight, run as fast, or recover as quickly when you can’t get oxygen to your muscles and rid your body of lactic acid and other wastes.
What causes poor circulation?
Most of the time, an individual suffers from poor blood circulation as a result of their lifestyle habits. Smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet (characterized by high sugar content, trans fats, and alcohol consumption) contribute to various conditions that affect blood flow. For example, arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a side effect of diabetes and is caused by smoking, excess weight, and lack of exercise. This condition occurs when fatty acids such as cholesterol build up in the bloodstream and form hard plaques on artery walls. This narrows the arteries and restricts blood flow. Also, prolonged sitting (that’s right, sitting) can lead to poor blood flow in the body. When your muscles don’t move, your circulation decreases. This means you will use less glucose (blood sugar that your body uses for energy) and burn less fat, which is not good. Slow blood flow allows fatty acids to clog the heart, causing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It can also cause blood and other fluids to pool in the legs, which can lead to varicose veins and the formation of dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis. Not surprisingly, people with sedentary lifestyles are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as more active people.
How can we improve it?
Eating beets or drinking beet juice
Beets contain a large amount of inorganic nitrates, which is a naturally occurring chemical found in the air, soil and water. When consumed, it is converted to nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator (a compound that opens blood vessels in the body). Nitric oxide is believed to dilate blood vessels and reduce the amount of oxygen required for exercise. By helping to facilitate the widening of blood vessels, nitric oxide helps promote increased blood flow in our skeletal muscle (which means more nutrients such as oxygen can be moved throughout the body) and regulate our blood pressure.
Yoga can provide a wide range of benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Multiple studies have shown this to be the case. High amounts of stress can cause hyperactivity in the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the nervous system that serves to speed up the heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and raise blood pressure as part of the fight or threat response. In addition, chronic stress can also lead to behaviors that increase blood pressure, such as eating and drinking poorly and not doing things that naturally lower blood pressure. This is where yoga can come into play, as multiple postures have been shown to help the nervous system calm down naturally.
In addition to improving flexibility, reducing pain, reducing tension and improving sleep, a sports massage helps improve circulation. In fact, that is the main purpose of a sports massage. After a week of hard training sessions, our muscles and fascia have suffered microscopic damage that needs to be repaired through increased blood flow (as blood will bring important nutrients to those areas). The massage helps to increase blood flow through the different movements used by the masseur. Prolonged motion movements help fluid move through the circulatory system, and deep massage helps increase permeability in fibrous tissues, allowing more fluid and nutrients to flow through the tissue.
Eating more “superfoods
There are plenty of superfoods to choose from, but we recommend including as many as possible in your regular diet. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild Alaskan salmon, kale, and walnuts) can increase the amount of good cholesterol in your blood (HDL) while lowering the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL). Other foods that are rich in “good fats” and contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties include:
Organic coconut oil.