Home > Heart Health > Poor Circulation: Diet & Lifestyle

Poor Circulation: Diet & Lifestyle

January 17, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Do you suffer from poor circulation? If you don’t, it’s almost certain that you know someone who does. Today I’m going to share some information about two natural approaches to improve the circulatory system. And the beautiful thing is that they’re completely free and won’t require you to take any pills.

Keep the Salt at Sea

Many of us are aware that sodium, as found in common table salt, can raise blood pressure in sensitive people. But a new study out of Australia discovered another ill-effect of excessive sodium consumption.

Before I get into the specifics of the study, I want take a brief walk back in history. In the past, salt was simply not used like it is today. The primary reason is that processed foods account for the majority of sodium in the modern diet. These same processed foods are typically very poor sources of potassium.

The simplest way to help restore a natural, healthy balance between potassium and sodium intake is by limiting consumption of packaged foods such as fast food, frozen entrees and most commercially available snacks. By replacing some or all of these with natural, whole foods like beef, chicken, dairy, fish, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables … we would automatically and dramatically boost our potassium intake (which tends to lower blood pressure) and simultaneously lower sodium intake.

In the February 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a group of Australian researchers tested the effects of a low sodium diet on a group of 29 overweight men and women with normal blood pressure.

All 29 participants were first asked to follow a low sodium diet for two weeks, at which point tests were conducted to measure their blood flow and blood pressure. Then, they were all put on a “usual” salt diet which was not restricted based on sodium content. The “usual” salt diet also lasted for exactly two weeks.

The results of the study provided some interesting insights:

  • As expected there were lower average blood pressure levels during the low sodium diet. The difference was equal to about 5mm on the systolic level. In a blood pressure reading of 120/75 mmHg, the 120 reading is the systolic number.
  • A test called a “brachial artery flow mediated dilation” (FMD) was used to determine the circulatory health of the volunteers. The volunteers exhibited better blood flow while on the reduced sodium diet as compared to when they were on the “usual” salt diet. The difference was statistically significant.

Based on these findings, the authors of the study commented that excess sodium may impair the normal function of the arteries which can negatively impact circulation. They suggest that this should be another reason why we carefully consider the amount of sodium that we consume.

Let the Sun Shine!

One form of poor circulation is referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is defined by a lack of healthy circulation to the legs and feet. The primary cause of this appears to be similar to heart disease, except in this case, the arterial plaque and narrowing of the arteries occurs in the lower half of the body. The symptoms of PAD include weakness, an inability to walk long distances, feeling cold in the extremities, numbness and pain. Needless to say, it can be quite debilitating.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine became interested in the role of vitamin D in PAD for a number of reasons. They knew that: a) some research suggested that vitamin D could affect blood pressure. b) elevated blood pressure could damage arteries, and c) our blood vessels have receptors for vitamin D. This may suggest a possible role for vitamin D in the management of arterial health.

In order to test their hypothesis, the researchers enlisted the aid of over 4,800 volunteers. These volunteers were screened for PAD using a test called an “ankle-brachial index”. This measures the flow of blood to the legs. They also tested for vitamin D levels in all the participants.

When the results of the blood flow and vitamin D tests were in, a clear pattern emerged:

  • PAD was 64 percent more likely in those with the lowest levels of vitamin D (as compared to those with the highest vitamin D levels).
  • Among those with the highest level of vitamin D, only about 4% had PAD – a very small percentage from a population based perspective.
  • For each 10 ng/ml decrease in vitamin D blood levels, there was a 29% increased risk of PAD. A minimum reading of 30 nanograms per milliliter is often considered a healthy vitamin D blood level.

Note: Some health authorities, like Dr. William Davis, who I mentioned earlier this week, believe even higher levels are optimal.

D for Differences

A brand new study out of Johns Hopkins seems to confirm the vitamin D/PAD connection. This particular analysis focused on African-American adults, as this group suffers a higher percentage of PAD than the general population. It’s also known that darker skinned individuals aren’t as efficient in manufacturing vitamin D from sun exposure.

The chief scientists of this study concluded with these comments, “Racial differences in vitamin D status may explain nearly one-third of the excess risk of PAD in black compared with white adults. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings.”

A healthy circulatory system affects just about every aspect of how our bodies function. Without adequate blood flow everything suffers – from our ability to think to our ability to wiggle our toes. Monitoring and adjusting sodium levels and making sure to get some sensible sun exposure and/or vitamin D supplementation are a few simple ways to help protect this vital and often neglected system in our bodies.

Be well!


Tags: , ,
Posted in Heart Health

4 Comments & Updates to “Poor Circulation: Diet & Lifestyle”

  1. mom Says:

    It was a very nice read it hit some points that I needed to know.

    Rock On!!!!!!!!

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. jenny Says:

    This is all well and good but is there a cure other than an operation…

  4. JP Says:

    Hi, Jenny.

    What do you mean by “cure”? Please tell us more.

    Be well!


Leave a Comment