November 26, 2021

Health Corner: November good time to talk about poor circulation’s correlation to diabetes

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and a good time to look into the relationship between poor circulation and diabetes.

The Cold Truth about Poor Circulation and Diabetes

Everyone gets cold feet (or hands) sometimes, especially at this time of year. However, if your hands and feet STAY cold, perhaps even numb, it’s an almost sure sign you have poor circulation. And while decreased blood flow can be a symptom of several medical problems – one of the most common is diabetes.

Poor circulation may seem like a mild symptom. But, if left unchecked, poor circulation can put you at risk for limb, heart, kidney, brain and eye damage. Consequently, it’s important to know how your poor circulation developed and how you can improve the condition.

Diabetes can lead to poor circulation in several ways. In many cases, high glucose levels can be the culprit. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can cause damage to the lining of your small blood vessels, impeding your circulation. Diabetes also increases your risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Based on data from the American Diabetes Association, one in three people over age 50 with diabetes has PAD. The fatty deposits common to this condition narrow the blood vessels, mainly in your legs and feet. As this happens, your chances of having a stroke or heart attack rise significantly.

Diabetic neuropathy — cold or numb hands or feet — is a common sign of poor circulation in diabetes. However, according to the Global Diabetes Community, you should alert your doctor if you experience these symptoms, as well:

• Pain when walking, particularly in calves, thighs, and buttocks.

• Chest pain during exertion.

• High blood pressure.

• Infections in your feet.

• Trouble seeing.

• Hair loss on legs or feet.

• Dry, cracked skin on feet.

• Slow-healing wounds on feet.

• Brittle toenails.

• Erectile dysfunction.

Can you improve your circulation? Yes, according to the Diabetes Council, there are several things you can to do improve your blood flow.

• Exercise is one of the best ways to improve blood flow to your hands, feet, legs and other parts of the body. At least five days a week, try to bike, run, walk, swim or get some other type of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes.

•  Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Aim for keeping your blood sugar at the levels recommended by the American Diabetes Association for both before and after meals.

• Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, trying to maintain levels recommended by the American Heart Association. Take medication, if necessary. 

• Wear warm diabetic (compression) socks. If your feet can’t feel temperature, avoid putting them in a hot bath.

• Check your feet daily for any injuries.

• Lose weight.

• Stop smoking. 

Pay attention to what your body tells you. If you start to develop symptoms of poor circulation, talk with your doctor. Addressing the problem early could prevent infections, amputations and worsening cardiovascular health issues.

Diabetic foot ulcers (wounds) are the leading cause of hospitalization and amputation for individuals with diabetes. If you or a loved one has diabetes and a non-healing wound, call the Wound Clinic at ACHS at 641-814-1912.