February is American Heart Month—how fitting that the same month as Valentine’s Day also focuses on heart health. Your heart impacts every part of your body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Its beats circulate your blood to the far ends of your body, after all. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy, and your feet can reap the consequences. Poor circulation, particularly from peripheral arterial disease, means your heart isn’t able to get sufficient blood flow to your extremities to heal problems when they arise. However, something as simple as movement can improve circulation for your lower limbs.
Peripheral arterial disease causes the blood vessels in your lower limbs to get narrower and clogged with plaque. This restricts circulation and keeps your feet from receiving the nutrients and oxygen they need. Eventually this can create cramping and weakness in your feet and legs. When your heart pumps hard—like when you’re exercising—it pushes the blood past these blocks, forcing the flow to your feet. That’s why the right exercises can improve circulation overall.
So if you have poor circulation, you need to get up and move to improve your health. Here are a few easy ways to do this:
- Walking: Start slowly, taking breaks if your feet ache. Start walking 20 – 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week. Slowly increase how long you walk to roughly 50 minutes at a time.
- Biking: Start slowly, riding just a few miles. Keep a pace that increases your heart rate without exhausting you. Increase your distance gradually over several weeks.
To improve circulation for your feet directly, try some foot and ankle exercises as well:
- Ankle rolls: Holding onto a chair for balance, lift one foot and rotate it in circles at the ankle. Then lower it and rotate the other foot.
- Calf raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly rise up on your toes, lifting your heels as high as you can. Then lower back down and repeat ten times.
Don’t take your heart—or your feet—for granted. They need care, too, which is what simple exercise can do. If you’re concerned about peripheral arterial disease, or would like help establishing a foot-safe exercise program, let Carolina Podiatry Group help. Use our website or call our South Carolina offices to reach us: (803) 548-FEET for Fort Mill, or (803) 285-1411 for Lancaster.
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