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Continuing our series of articles on Circulation, Eamonn discusses the relationship between diet and circulation

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

The influence of our diet on circulation

Part 1

 

As discussed last week, there are many different causes of poor circulation and many conditions that can lead to poor circulation. Symptoms of these conditions can include “cold hands”, pins and needles in hands and feet, numbness, varicose veins, leg cramps, a heavy feeling in the limbs and swollen ankles. Serious and even life -threatening conditions that can occur include leg ulcers, gangrene, kidney failure and brain aneurisms.

 

Vascular Disease includes any condition that causes poor circulation. These include Peripheral Artery Disease, Renal Artery Disease, Varicose Veins, Venous Blood Clots, Aneurysm, Raynaud’s Disease, Peripheral Venous Disease and Erectile Dysfunction.

 

“Teflon versus Velcro”

Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic and blood runs through the veins as if they were lined with a nonstick surface that enhances blood flow like “Teflon”. As we age, this “Teflon” coating starts to get sticky, like “Velcro”, and this leads to many health risks. When arteries stiffen, they are more likely to clog with fatty substances such as cholesterol and cause heart attacks and strokes.

 

Influence of diet on circulation

 

Diet has an influence our circulation so changes in your diet and maintaining a normal weight can help prevent many of the symptoms of poor circulation.

 

Salt

Too much salt can slow circulation, mainly through its effect on blood pressure. Processed foods which form a major part of the modern diet contain very high levels of sodium (salt). Before many of us add any salt to our food, we are already taking in more than the recommended daily allowance of salt. Salt and sodium can increase blood pressure, so it is important to limit it. It is recommended to limit salt to about one teaspoon daily. On average, 75% of our salt comes from processed food. When buying canned, processed, and convenience foods, most are labelled with sodium content so buy the brands that are lower in sodium. High is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) and low in salt is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium). If you salt your food at the table, try using less, or none. It may take a little while to get used to the new flavours, but you may find that food tastes better when you use less salt.

 

In February 2009, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a group of Australian researchers who tested the effects of a low sodium diet on a group of 29 overweight men and women with normal blood pressure. The participants of the study where first asked to stick to a low sodium diet for two weeks and then they were asked to consume a “normal” sodium diet where sodium levels are not restricted. During the low sodium phase the participants’ blood pressure went down significantly. Researchers also did a “brachial artery flow mediated dilation” which determines circulatory health and this test showed that circulation improved significantly during the low sodium diet. This shows that too much sodium (salt) in our diet negatively impacts on our arteries thus affecting circulation.

 

Can vitamin D help circulation?

One form of poor circulation is referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is poor circulation in the legs and feet. The main cause is atherosclerosis, where plaque made up of fatty substances including cholesterol causes narrowing to the arteries in the lower half of the body. The symptoms of PAD include weakness, an inability to walk long distances, feeling cold in the extremities, numbness and pain. A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, regular exercise and not smoking helps prevent PAD.

 

Research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York shows that vitamin D increases blood flow to the legs and prevents peripheral artery disease (PAD). Your body can manufacture D on its own (with a little help from the sun). Because exposure to sunlight can vary widely in Ireland depending on the time of year, experts state that supplements may be necessary if you do not get enough vitamin D through diet or sunlight. Many types of milk, along with some breads and cereals, are fortified with vitamin D. You can also find D naturally in fatty fish such as salmon, margarine and egg yolks. Whelehans sell Adult D® vitamin D supplement which contains 1000IU of vitamin D3. It costs €11.95 per 100 pack. This is a very cost effective vitamin D supplement as it works out at only €3.58 per month when you take one daily. D3 is the easiest type of vitamin D to absorb.

 

What is BPro Cardio Screen Service?

Whelehans now has a cardiovascular health check called BPro Cardio Screen. This test measures the stiffness of your arteries to help identify risk of blockages and your risk of cardiovascular disease and circulation problems. BPRo is placed like a watch on your wrist and is completely pain free. A pulse wave reads and calculates a wave signal that indicates the elasticity of large, small, and peripheral artery walls as well as tests for stress, central blood pressure, heart rate, and more. It is now €35 (was €50); it only takes about 15 minutes to get checked. The next clinic is Thursday January 31st from 9am to 6pm at Whelehans Pearse St. Book by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591.

 

To be continued next week…more information on foods that improve circulation

 

Disclaimer: Please ensure you consult with your healthcare professional before making any changes recommended

 

For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehan’s Pharmacies, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).


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