Blood circulation is an often overlooked aspect of one’s overall health, but the truth is, it should be considered of utmost importance, especially by the elderly. Sure, having circulation problems can bring only minor inconvenience, but they definitely have the potential to progress into a life-threatening health situation when left untreated.
Whether you are a caregiver or senior suffering from poor circulatory problems, there is a range of things you can learn about blood circulation and methods you can use to ease discomfort and improve your overall health.
Understanding Blood Circulation
A person’s blood circulation determines whether or not organs and tissues are adequately supplied with freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients. Just a tiny blockage or congestion in this perfectly laid-out system of veins and arteries can compromise your body’s major organs—the heart, the brain, the lungs—and cause a host of medical conditions in the process. Aside from this, inadequate or interrupted blood flow also slows down the body’s healing process against injury or illness, even further complicating such conditions.
While circulation problems can happen to anyone, they can also occur naturally as one ages. Our blood vessels’ baroreceptors, which are responsible for monitoring and maintaining blood pressure, become less sensitive with old age which helps explain why a lot of older people experience dizziness caused by a dip in their blood pressure as they move from lying down to standing, also referred to as orthostatic hypotension.
The aorta itself, the heart’s main artery, becomes thicker and less flexible with aging, forcing the heart to work harder and increasing one’s blood pressure as a result.
Poor Blood Flow among the Elderly
While circulation is an involuntary and rather natural process, it can become problematic as we age, as the body begins to struggle with pumping blood from the heart throughout the rest of the body. There is a myriad of factors that contribute to poor blood circulation among seniors, which include everything from diabetes, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle among others, and this can lead to a whole host of bothersome symptoms, such as swollen feet, cramps, and aching in the extremities.
Many seniors who experience such symptoms can be suffering from one or more of three common circulation problems: peripheral artery disease, varicose veins, and deep vein thrombosis—all of which involve an obstruction in one’s veins and arteries, leading to inadequate blood flow. Thankfully, various measures can be taken to help prevent these circulatory problems or to help alleviate symptoms of such existing conditions.
Moving around can be the simplest yet most effective method to get your blood to flow normally. There are many activities that seniors can try such as walking, swimming, yoga, or using exercise equipment for pedal exercises. Pedal exercisers are particularly useful for the elderly as they allow them to simply sit on their chair and exercise their legs and arms.
If a patient or a loved one has had circulation problems lately, you may wish to take him or her to the great outdoors. Just remember to consult their physician first, use a slow to moderate intensity and, of course, take necessary rest periods from time to time.
Monitoring Blood Pressure
Among the diabetic and obese, medical conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure contribute significantly to poor blood circulation, which is why taking your prescriptions religiously and continuously monitoring one’s health is a must among older adults.
To ensure optimal health, keep track of your blood pressure readings regularly. All you need to do is to secure a blood pressure monitor that works for you and learn how to use it at home.
Make sure that you know which monitor is best for your condition as there are various factors to consider, such as the NIBP cuff sizing and whether or not it is a validated device. You can always ask your doctor for a recommendation or for a tutorial on how to properly use your monitor.
Foods for Proper Circulation
Diet affects our health significantly, so it goes without saying that diet can affect one’s circulation as well. Since poor circulation can cause plaque buildup in the arteries because of high cholesterol, diabetes, and the like, eating healthy foods to prevent such complications is vital.
As an example, food rich in omega-3 fats, such as fish and other kinds of seafood, is known to improve blood flow and prevent heart disease in the long run. Meanwhile, food rich in vitamins B, C, and E also significantly contribute to improved circulation and blood flow in the body.
Aging can take its toll on one’s body, but as long as you stay on top of your health and you are determined to minimize health and circulation problems, age can truly be just a number.
Former nurse turned digital nomad, Tara understands the importance of providing value in everything she does whether she’s writing a journal, contributing valuable insights on various topics such as health, tech, and marketing or volunteering her time to humanitarian causes. She also loves hiking and swimming. Follow her on twitter at @tarajess_des.