The body's circulatory system is a complex network of blood vessels which transport blood from the heart to all parts of the body, and back again to the heart.
In doing so, the circulatory system supplies oxygen and nutrients to all body cells, as well as removing any waste products or toxins from the body. The flow of blood helps to heal any wounds or injuries in the body. It also regulates the temperature and pH level in the body.
The circulatory system is made up of 3 types of blood vessels:
- Arteries which carry blood away from the heart
- Veins which carry blood towards the heart
- Capillaries, the smallest blood vessels connect arteries to veins and feed our cells with oxygen
Arterial circulation involves the arteries which carry blood away from the heart, while venous circulation consists of the veins which move blood towards the heart.
Arteries are strong and elastic vessels which contract with every heartbeat. This helps to keep your blood pressure at the correct level by expanding and contracting to adjust to the rate of blood flow.
Veins, such as the pulmonary veins or the vena cava, return blood to your heart. They have thinner walls than arteries and expand as the amount of blood flowing through them increases.
Poor arterial circulation can be the result of arteries narrowing or becoming blocked. In Western society, the most common cause of this is a build-up of cholesterol inside the walls of the arteries, causing a restriction of blood flow movement. This may lead to:
Tinnitus – this is a condition where sounds such as ringing, whooshing or buzzing are heard in the ears. If tinnitus is the result of poor arterial circulation, it is likely that you will be suffering from pulsatile tinnitus, a type of tinnitus where the sounds are rhythmic and often coincide with your heartbeat
Raynaud’s syndrome – this is a condition where there is interruption to the blood supply to your hands and feet. Areas of your body affected turn white or blue as blood supply reduces
Poor memory – it is normal for people to become a bit more forgetful as we get older. Whilst we might jest that we see the early signs of dementia, slight lapses in our short-term memory is something that is a natural part of ageing
Strokes – this medical emergency occurs when blood supply to the brain is temporarily cut off. It is a serious medical condition which requires immediate medical attention, as the sooner it is treated, the greater the chance of recovery
Heart problems – this is a very vague term covering a wide range of diseases which can affect the heart, ranging from angina to heart attacks. Each will have its own specific treatment.
Poor arterial circulation is often an indication that your heart is not as healthy as it should be, and so it is worth visiting your doctor.
If you have poor venous circulation, your veins will struggle to return blood from your lower body, especially the legs, back up to your heart. This means that blood will collect in your veins and this is likely to lead to varicose veins.
Although varicose veins in themselves are often not a serious condition, they are an indication that all is not well with your circulation, and if you are concerned you should speak to your doctor.
The heart, which is an amazingly powerful organ, pumps blood out into the aorta (the main artery) full of oxygen and ready to roll out to all areas. This blood courses through the aorta, powered by the contraction of the heart, and flows into smaller arteries, and thence into capillaries, which are tiny and penetrate the furthest reaches of the body.
It may help to think of the main, largest arteries as highways, the smaller ones as boulevards and the capillaries as streets, or the lanes that lead to tiny villages and hamlets. If we’re going to be scientific about it though, the capillaries provide what is known as microcirculation.
Once the capillaries have taken this oxygenated blood to the tissues and organs that need it, and delivered up the oxygen, deoxygenated blood is collected up by more capillaries and taken to small veins, leading to larger veins, which eventually lead back to the heart.
From the heart, the blood takes a trip to the lungs to fill up with oxygen again, and then back it goes to the heart to start all over again. The deoxygenated blood is pushed back up to the heart from the lower regions of the body by the contraction of the muscles in the calf.
Bear this in mind if you are a couch potato! It will be very difficult for your body to pump the blood upwards if you are slumped in a sedentary position most of the time!
Chaos and confusion. You really need blood to be delivered around the body; it’s not an optional extra. Areas that aren’t supplied with oxygen and the other nutrients that the blood provides have a distressing tendency to wither and die, or at least cease functioning in an effective manner.
- People who don’t move about much, whether because of their job or their inclination, tend to become sluggish around the extremities.
- People with weak heart action will lack the ability to pump the blood out of the heart strongly in the first place; and those with weak blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) will find it hard to power blood into the nooks and crannies that need it.
- Elderly people tend to have less effective blood delivery; and
- Smokers are known to have reduced arterial flow.
Without having to take up marathon running or having to cultivate a habit of standing on your head for a portion of each day to get the blood back up to the top of your body...
Ginkgo biloba is the most obvious answer to poor blood circulation. It has been shown in research to benefit microcirculation. It works in a number of ways:
- It relaxes spasm in the small arteries and capillaries, making it easier for blood to flow right into the deepest corners.
- It stabilizes those same small arteries and capillaries, reducing the way the walls are attacked by free radicals and thus preventing the walls being broken down.
- It reduces the stickiness of the platelets in the blood, making the blood less thick.
The overall effect is that it is easier for the blood to flow around the body effectively.
The most recent research has shown that using Ginkgo improves blood flow in the capillaries, opens unused capillaries, and increases the delivery of red and white blood cells around the body.
This means better memory, better concentration, less tiredness, less dizziness or giddiness, warmer hands and feet, and better erectile function for the chaps.