Do You Have Good or Bad Circulation? Here's How to Find Out

This system is so important to your overall health.

There are many reasons why you might be suffering from poor circulation. Cardiovascular conditions, like heart disease—which can reduce blood outflow to the rest of your body due to a weak pump mechanism—is one of them. Chronic venous stasis (this happens when blood pools in your veins due to inactivity or the setting in of varicosities, preventing the back-flow of blood) is another. Here's the catch: We can't physically see these things manifest, which explains why so many people don't know that their circulatory system isn't in tip-top shape. To help you identify this condition, we spoke with three medical experts; ahead, they share its signs and symptoms—and note when you should be concerned about your circulation.

circulation test at home
getty images / sanjagrujic

There are many signs of poor circulation.

You've probably heard that cold hands and feet are the main symptoms of poor circulation, but according to Dr. Matthew Kohler, a physician with Ospina Medical, there are additional signs that your blood may not be flowing the way it should be. Symptoms such as cramping, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, swelling around joints, memory loss or difficulty concentrating, fainting, digestive issues, fatigue, skin color changes, or varicose veins are all additional indications that there may be something amiss.

Try testing yourself.

If you've ever experienced any of those symptoms, you might be worried about your circulatory system, but Dr. Rajivan Maniam, a co-founder at Ospina Medical, says there are ways to confirm good circulation at home, which might put some of your worries to rest. "The color of your fingernails and toenails would be pink and your fingers and toes should be warm," he says. "This indicates that oxygenated blood is able to reach to the farthest ends of your body." To test this yourself, squeeze your fingertip until the area turns white, and then count how many seconds it takes to turn pink again. Dr. Maniam says that someone with healthy circulation should see their fingertip return to a pink hue in three seconds or less. "There should be no severe swelling and you should not have loss of sensation or tingling in your fingers or toes," he adds.

There are ways to improve your circulation.

Dr. Kohler says you can improve your circulation by abstaining from smoking, reducing your intake of saturated fats and sugars (thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and helping to maintain insulin sensitivity), and getting in a few cardio-based workouts per week to get your blood pumping. "If you have varicose veins, wearing compression stockings can help improve the blood flow from the veins in the lower extremities by reducing back-flow in dysfunctional veins," Dr. Kohler adds. "Studies have shown that omega-3-rich fish oils and drinking teas with high antioxidants help maintain a healthy heart that is strong enough to pump good amounts of blood throughout the body." Just be sure to speak with your medical provider, he says, prior to beginning any kind of self-treatment for poor circulation.

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