If your hands and feet stay cold, perhaps even numb, it’s an almost sure sign you have poor circulation. While decreased blood flow can be a symptom of several medical problems, one of the most common is diabetes.
The symptom might seem mild, but if left unchecked, poor circulation puts you at risk for limb, heart, kidney, brain, and eye damage.
Consequently, it’s important to know how your poor circulation developed and how you can improve the condition.
How Does Diabetes-Related Poor Circulation Happen?
- Diabetes can lead to poor circulation in several ways. In many cases, high glucose levels can be the culprit. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can cause damage to the lining of your small blood vessels, impeding your circulation.
- Diabetes also increases your risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Based on data from the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 3 people over age 50 with diabetes has PAD. The fatty deposits common to this condition narrow the blood vessels, mainly in your legs and feet. As this happens, your chances of having a stroke or heart attack rise significantly.
Identifying Poor Circulation
Diabetic neuropathy — cold or numb hands or feet — is a common sign of poor circulation in diabetes. However, according to United Kingdom-based Global Diabetes Community, you should alert your doctor if you experience these symptoms, as well:
- Pain when walking, particularly in calves, thighs, and buttocks
- Chest pain during exertion
- High blood pressure
- Infections in your feet
- Trouble seeing
- Hair loss on legs or feet
- Dry, cracked skin on feet
- Slow-healing wounds on feet
- Brittle toenails
- Erectile dysfunction
Can You Improve Your Circulation?
Yes, you can. According to The Diabetes Council, there are several things you can to do improve your blood flow.
- Exercise is one of the best ways to improve blood flow to your hands, feet, legs, and other parts of the body. At least five days a week, try to bike, run, walk, swim, or get some other type of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes. In fact, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, exercising consistently for 6 months can produce a 20-percent improvement in ankle blood pressure. This reduction points to PAD improvement, as well as increased circulation.
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Aim for keeping your blood sugar at the levels recommended by the American Diabetes Association for both before and after meals.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, trying to maintain levels recommended by the American Heart Association. Take medication, if necessary.
- Wear warm diabetic (compression) socks. If your feet can’t feel temperature, avoid putting them in a hot bath.
- Check your feet daily for any injuries.
- Lose weight.
- Stop smoking.
Pay attention to what your body tells you. If you start to develop symptoms of poor circulation, talk with your doctor or contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America. Addressing the problem early could prevent infections, amputations, and worsening cardiovascular health issues.