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How to improve your circulation in older age

26th July 2019

It is common for older people to suffer from poor circulation as numerous changes take place that can slow the circulation of blood as you age.

The receptors that monitor your blood pressure become less sensitive which makes it difficult to regulate your blood flow, while the walls of your capillaries thicken, and the arteries thicken and stiffen as well. Other changes that take place as you age occurs in the blood itself, such as the total water volume in your body reducing and red blood cells replacing at a slower rate.

Older people often complain of cold hands and feet and numbness or swelling which are all signs of poor circulation. It is important that older people exercise to improve their circulation, and this is especially true for those who have mobility problems and are unable to move around much.

This guide takes you through the best things you can do to improve your circulation. No matter whether you are very healthy or need items such as modern stairlifts to get around your home, there is an exercise you can do.

How to improve circulation in legs

Try leg exercises

One of the best ways to get your blood pumping around your body is to exercise as when your heart muscles contract at a higher rate, the blood moves through the blood vessels quickly and this improves your circulation.

There are lots of great exercises you can do to improve your circulation, but Sarah Ismail, the editor of the blog Same Difference, says that treadmilling is something she’d recommend. 

“I recommend treadmilling to improve circulation if it is physically possible. I do this exercise myself and it helps circulation in my legs.”

Below are some other great exercises you can try to improve the circulation in your lower body:

  • Ankle pumps
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga

Use an elevating leg pillow

Elevating your legs can help increase the blood flow in your veins and reduces the likelihood of blood clots forming.

This is something that should be considered for people that are less mobile and sit down for long periods. It can be done when reading, watching TV or sleeping.

By raising your legs, it helps blood and other fluids to flow back towards the core. Not only does it help circulation, but it can also reduce leg swelling and pain as well.

Buy compression socks and bandages

Compression socks and bandages for your legs helps improve your blood flow by gently squeezing your extremities to help push the blood back to your heart.

Compression apparel is a great choice for older people who sit down most of the day and have mobility problems as it passively encourages better circulation.

You can purchase compression stockings from a variety of retailers such as Cosyfeet, Medi and Compression Sock Shop

Leg massages and hydrotherapy

There is a myriad of massages that can help improve your circulation but, before booking one in, it is always best to ask the masseuse or spa what they would recommend.

The likes of Spa and Massage offer a variety of treatments such as physiotherapy, sports massage and aromatherapy.

Hydrotherapy, which is the therapeutic use of water, is another option to try. Hydrotherapy encourages blood flow when you alternate hot and cold as the heat expands vessels and fills them with blood, while the cold contracts them and this causes blood to flow.

How to improve circulation in feet?

Keep your feet warm

By keeping your feet warm it boosts the circulation to them by increasing their blood flow. This is why it is important that you always make sure that your feet are warm, particularly if you are heading out in cold weather.

If you are cold indoors then you should wear socks or at night you could use a hot water bottle to ensure you stay cosy, especially during the winter months. As well as wearing socks you could invest in insulated slippers that are wool-lined or fur-lined.

If you suffer from cold feet, then you can look at buying toe warmers as these are essentially heat packs specially made for your feet and toes. There are also winter footbeds that can be used to stop the cold from creeping in through the soles of your shoes as well.

Move your feet and toes

It is vital that older people, especially those with mobility problems who are sat down for most of the day, move their feet.

You should make a habit of wiggling your feet and toes and rotate and move your ankles as this will improve circulation in your feet.

Like you would on a flight, you should try to do this throughout the day and a few minutes at a time.

Massage your feet

By getting your feet massaged, it will stretch the muscles and ultimately improve your blood flow.

Hiring a professional that specialises in foot massage is the best option, but you can massage your own feet too. Just ensure you sit comfortably and gently rub in lotion or massage oil into the bottoms of your feet, toes and heels.

You can massage your feet as often as you like, or you could look to buy foot massage devices or rollers that help you easily massage the muscles in your feet.

How to improve circulation in hands?

Try specific hand exercises

Exercise is the best way to improve your blood's ability to circulate through your hands and there are a number of exercises you can try.

To begin with, you should start with a few warm-up exercises like holding your hands out in front of you and shake them around to get the blood flowing.

Another great exercise to try includes balling your hands into a fist and keeping them clenched for around 10 seconds and release. You can use a rubber ball or a crumpled piece of paper as part of this particular exercise.

Once you have warmed up you should look to move onto a variety of isometric exercises. These include clenching one hand and pushing your fist into the palm of your other hand and holding it there for 10 seconds. Other exercises that help the circulation in your hands include pushing your hands against objects such as walls and tables.

Try yoga

Yoga is regarded as one of the most effective ways to increase circulation and there are many poses you can try that will help increase the circulation in your hands and mobilise finger joints.

Yoga in Daily Life recommends three asanas in particular when it comes to improving your hand circulation and the following can also be done by those of you with mobility problems:

  • Sarva Hita Asana Arm and Hand Exercises – Sit with straight legs and back but raise the arms forward to shoulder height. Close the fingers into a fist with the thumb inside and then spread them wide.
  • Sarva Hita Asana Rope Pulling - Sit with the legs and back straight and your hands on your thighs. Then stretch your left arm upwards and close the left hand into a fist before lowering it slowly to the knee. Then repeat on the other arm and hand.
  • Sarva Hita Asana Rowing - Sit with legs straight, place your hands beside the knees with palms facing down and then pull the arms back and close the hands into fists. Straighten the arms upwards and bring the body upright.

Other tips to improve circulation in older age

Enjoy a healthy diet

By drinking lots of water and restricting the amount of high-fat foods in your diet, you can help improve your circulation.

Eating oily fish, which are stacked with omega-3 fatty acids improves cardiovascular health, circulation and joints. Oily fish that you can try include salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna.

By eating healthy you will maintain a good weight as a person that is overweight is more likely to suffer from problems with their circulation.

This study from 2009 found that losing weight improved circulation for women with participants seeing their protein levels, which is associated with vascular function, rise.

Move about in your home

Older adults who have mobility problems and do not get out of their home a lot can still improve their circulation by just moving around.

Even if it is just moving around a small amount, it can be beneficial. Walking helps open up the blood vessels and this improves circulation and increases sensation.

If you are sitting down, then several positions that encourage circulation. Crossing your legs, for example, reduces blood flow to your legs and it is therefore much wiser for you to sit with your legs slightly apart and to support your feet with the floor or a footstool.

To recap, here are some of the ways you can improve your circulation in older age:

  • Try leg exercises
  • Use an elevating leg pillow
  • Buy compression socks and bandages
  • Leg massages and hydrotherapy
  • Move your feet and toes
  • Keep your feet warm
  • Massage your feet
  • Try specific hand exercises
  • Try yoga
  • Enjoy a healthy diet
  • Move about in your home

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This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only and are up to date as of the time of publishing