Get Your Blood Flowing: Improving Circulation with Diabetes

improving circulation
Your first thought about managing your diabetes might be controlling your blood sugar. But, don’t forget about improving circulation. Your blood needs to pump smoothly so your feet and legs stay as healthy as possible.

If you’re feeling numbness, tingling, or cramping in your feet, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) could be to blame. This condition, that narrows and hardens arteries due to fatty plaque build-up, affects between 8-12 million Americans, and approximately one-third of individuals with diabetes over age 50 live with it.

Poor blood flow plays a large role in the 73,000 amputations that occur among people with diabetes annually, so improving circulation could not only improve how your legs and feet feel, but it could also save you from losing an extremity.

Consider taking these steps to improving circulation:

Exercise: Engage in some form of cardiovascular activity for 30 minutes five days a week to keep your blood pumping. Biking, walking, running, swimming, and aerobics are good options. The most important thing is to be sure you’re moving your toes, feet, ankles, and legs.

Quit smoking: Smoking hardens your arteries, much like PAD, and decreases your circulation. Stopping can help improve how well your blood reaches your legs and feet.

Control your cholesterol: High cholesterol can narrow and harden your arteries, limiting your circulation. Talk with your doctor about what your optimal cholesterol numbers are and shoot for lower.

Keep blood sugar low: Managing your blood sugar levels is also important to maintaining healthy blood flow. Keep your levels between 80-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after eating. Pay attention to your A1C levels, too, though. The target level for people with diabetes is 6.5 percent.

De-stress: Not only does stress increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, but it also sends more blood to your brain, heart, and skeletal muscles. Conscious muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and visualizing comfortable situations, such as using the WarmFeet technique, can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, increase your body temperature, and route blood to more areas of the body, including your extremities. In fact, WarmFeet has been clinically proven to increase circulation and heal foot ulcers.

Wear diabetic compression socks: Compression socks apply pressure to your calves and feet, straightening out your veins so the valves work better and let more blood flow through. Be sure any socks you choose won’t wrinkle and offer extra padding and flat seams. Socks made from acrylic, merino wool, bamboo, and charcoal mixed with spandex minimize the abrasiveness on your feet and decrease the amount of moisture that could come in contact with any foot sores you might develop. Compression socks range from extra-light to extra-firm pressure. Talk with your doctor about what would be best for you.

Take medications correctly: If your doctor prescribes blood thinners, take it as directed. It can’t stop the build-up of plaque on your arteries, but it can improve your circulation.


Following these suggestions could help you avoid the negative impacts of poor circulation. The more freely your blood flows, the less pain, discomfort, numbness, and cold temperatures you’ll experience in your feet and legs.

Contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America for more information on how to improve your circulation.