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Suffering From Cold Feet?

Your guide to better circulation
By David Kim, MD

It is not uncommon to experience cold hands and feet during the winter months. This happens because cooler temperatures cause the blood vessels in the limbs to constrict which redirects blood to vital organs. The circulatory system’s primary function is to deliver blood, oxygen and other nutrients to cells and organs throughout the body to keep it functioning at its best. Blood is also responsible for removing waste from the body during its circulation. This is why it is critical to maintain sufficient blood circulation. When blood flow to a certain area is reduced, you may notice symptoms of poor circulation. Circulation issues most commonly occur in the arms and legs.  

Symptoms of poor circulation include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Throbbing or stinging sensation
  • Sensitivity to the cold

If any of these symptoms happen frequently, it may be an indicator that your blood isn’t circulating properly. It’s important to understand that poor circulation doesn’t occur on its own; it is the result of other health issues.  There are several things that may impact your circulatory system; the most common reasons for poor circulation include:

Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels, all of which can negatively affect your circulatory system.

Diabetes: Diabetes causes an increase in the amount of glucose present in the body. Higher glucose levels cause capillary walls to grow thicker, and blood stickier, which impairs blood flow.  Over time, smaller blood vessels may begin to leak, further disrupting blood flow.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): This condition, more common in people over the age of 50 or in smokers, causes narrowing in the arteries and blood vessels, making pathways smaller. This increases the risk of plaque build-up which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Raynaud’s Disease: This condition, which is more common in women, causes chronic cold hands and feet and is due to narrowing of arteries in the hands and feet, making blood circulation more difficult. Occasionally this condition may also impact other areas of the body including the lips, nose and ears.

Varicose veins: Veins contain valves that direct the flow of blood in a particular direction. In varicose veins, which form primarily in the legs, valves become less effective, allowing some blood to travel backward and impact the overall blood flow.  Varicose veins may form due to a variety of reasons including diet, stress, lack of exercise or be hereditary.


Depending on the underlying cause, there may be some simple steps you can take to improve your circulation.

Eat Right! Maintaining a healthy diet and monitoring cholesterol levels can have a positive impact on your circulation. Individuals with lower cholesterol generally have less plaque buildup in their arteries which makes it easier for blood to travel through. Certain foods and supplements may also boost circulation. Try cutting back on processed foods with high amounts of fat, salt and sugar and incorporate more vitamin C in your diet through fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E, found in food such as nuts, seeds and spinach, thins blood which helps it to pass though vessels.

Get moving! Exercise is an effective way to get your heart pumping and blood moving. Exercising three to four times a week can have a significant impact on improving your circulation. Your arteries, veins and vessels will get a work out as the volume of blood circulating increases during exercise.

Try a massage! Although it is a temporary solution, massages help stimulate the movement of blood. Utilizing pressure techniques can help move blood in a particular area as well.

Quit Smoking! Smoking releases toxins that enter the blood stream and cause a whole slew of health problems including thickening blood (increasing the chances of forming a blood clot), raising blood pressure and narrowing arteries. This causes your heart to work harder and impacts the body’s ability to circulate blood.  Once you quit smoking, your body is able to begin to repair itself and blood circulation will improve.


Good circulation is an indicator of your overall health.  Once you have identified the cause of your circulation issue, you can begin to take steps to boost it. For any questions or for help determining what’s causing your chronic cold feet, make an appointment with a DuPage Medical Group Cardiologist today.



Topics and Subtopics: General Health

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