June 8, 2023

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Poor circulation happens when something like plaque, blood clots or narrowed blood vessels interfere with your circulatory system. Diabetes, obesity, and smoking can also cause bad circulation, and if left untreated life-threatening problems can develop, but also other health issues you might not be aware of. Eat This Not That! Health spoke with Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 20 years of direct patient care experience who shares how bad circulation can be the cause of certain health problems. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.


How Circulation and Heart Health are Connected

Marchese tells us, “The heart is responsible for pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood through your body every day. The circulatory system relies on the heart for blood to reach distant tissues, and the heart relies on the circulatory system to maintain pressure and return blood to the heart. Arteries from the heart carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, and veins return deoxygenated blood to the heart and lungs.”


What to Know About Bad Circulation

Marchese explains, “Bad circulation is like bad plumbing. When everything works, it’s business as usual, but one burst pipe or clogged drain can spell disaster. Knowing the symptoms of circulatory issues, such as blood clots, coronary artery disease, or chronic venous insufficiency, can prevent fatal problems such as stroke and heart attack.”


Muscle Pain or Weakness

According to Marchese, “Pain in your leg muscles when walking could indicate an issue with circulation preventing the tissues in your legs from getting enough oxygen. Problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and peripheral artery disease can weaken blood vessels and reduce blood travel to your legs and feet. Walking and light activity shouldn’t usually cause pain. Consult a physician about potential circulatory system issues if you get frequent cramps or pain during regular exercise or activities.”


Sharp Pain in One Extremity or Trouble Breathing

“A blood clot is one of the most dangerous complications in the circulatory system,” Marchese says. “In the legs, this is known as deep vein thrombosis, which can cause sharp, stabbing pains in a localized area on one side of the body. If left untreated, tissues in the leg can slowly die and become gangrenous due to a lack of oxygen or break off and travel to the lungs. A blood clot in the lungs is known as pulmonary embolism and causes cough or shortness of breath and can be fatal if not treated quickly.”


High Blood Pressure

Marchese states, “High blood pressure creates a strong force against blood vessel walls as blood travels through the body. Over time, hypertension can weaken blood vessel walls making it harder for blood to move through and increasing the chance of a ruptured artery. Atherosclerosis, plaque that collects inside arteries, can also contribute to high blood pressure and results from poor diet or lack of activity. Over time, hypertension can damage sensitive organs, including the kidneys and lungs, and increase the risk of other circulatory issues, such as blood clots and stroke.”


Swelling and Discoloration

Marchese explains, “One of the most apparent signs of a circulatory disorder is swelling in the extremities, known as edema or discoloration in fingers or toes. Varicose veins are caused by weakened veins that limit the ability of veins to return blood to the heart. Blood within varicose veins can flow incorrectly or remain stagnant, leading to blood clots. High blood pressure often contributes to varicose veins as the walls and valves within veins become damaged by the high pressure.” 
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