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Coping With Poor Circulation

October 20, 2011

I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while, but it didn’t exactly seem appropriate while we were experiencing somewhat of an Indian summer in the UK. We had the first widespread frost of the season last night, so it seems like a better time to talk about poor circulation and dealing with the cold.



I’ve suffered with poor circulation for at least the past three years and I think it got worse after I started to lose weight. I am nowhere near being underweight (I’m towards the high end of a healthy BMI), but maybe losing all that extra insulation triggered my circulation problems. I’ve never been to see my GP about it, but from a chat with a doctor friend and some internet research I’m sure I have the classic symptoms of Raynaud’s. Raynaud’s is very common and mainly affects women. About 10% of women in the UK are thought to be sufferers (Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association). The blood supply to the extremities, usually the fingers and toes, is interrupted and they become white and then blue, and then red when the blood supply returns. An attack is triggered by exposure to cold, but can be affected by stress and smoking as well. It can be very painful and in the past I have nearly been in tears because it hurts so badly.

After a few years of suffering from poor circulation I’ve learned a few things that I find very helpful for keeping warm and keeping the blood flowing.

1. I make sure that my hands and feet are well covered

It sounds obvious, but I always make sure that I have gloves and thick socks on. It’s important to cover up before you go outside because it’s more difficult to warm up once you’re cold. On my hands I usually wear a pair of silver gloves that my Mum ordered for me off the Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association website. I then wear another pair of gloves over the top. When it’s really cold I also wear a pair of windproof mittens on top of that. Mittens are the best thing to wear to keep your hands toasty, but they do make doing everyday tasks a bit difficult!

On my feet I usually wear silver socks and then long socks on top of that. I also have thicker walking socks and thermal socks for when it gets really cold. I find it helpful to make sure that my arms and legs are well covered too, so I wear a long sleeved top or jumper underneath my coat and I often wear tights or leggings underneath my trousers on cold days.

2. Be prepared with lots of layers

Sitting in a draft or over-enthusiastic air-con can turn my fingers blue, so I try to remember to take lots of layers with me when I go to work. I have a really thick cardigan that I keep at work and pop on whenever it gets a bit chilly. I find that a change in temperature is quite triggering, so everyone else might be fine, but I’m wrapped up like a Christmas present.

3. Drink lots of hot drinks

Eating or drinking cold things is a definite trigger for me, but warming myself up from the inside helps to counteract that. I continue to eat salads and smoothies etc. during the colder months, but I make sure that I have a hot drink along with it.

At work I nearly always have a hot drink on my desk that I can cradle to warm up my hands and I sometimes just put it up to my face without drinking any to warm my lips and nose up.

4. Exercise

I rely on exercise during the winter to get my blood pumping. When it’s really cold getting moving is an absolute necessity to relieve the discomfort, especially in my feet which I find difficult to warm up once they get cold. My feet often go completely numb and exercise is the only thing guaranteed to make the feeling come back.

5. Don’t heat your extremities up too fast

Last winter I got chilblains on my feet and it wasn’t pleasant! They are sore and really really itchy! Chilblains are caused when the extremity is heated up too fast from being cold, like when you put them in front of the fire or on the radiator. As tempting as it is to do this, I know I’ve got to resist and warm them up gradually. Also, if I have a hot bath I make sure I dip my feet in and out to get them used to the new temperature before wading in.


One of my colleagues at work also has this problem and has been prescribed vasodilators by her GP, so there is medication that can help. I’d prefer not to take drugs, but I am considering seeing a doctor if it gets bad again this year. If nothing else, freaking people out with my blue fingers and purple toes is great fun!

Do you suffer from poor circulation? What do you do to help relieve it?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 5:21 pm

    I have awful circulation- I always get chillblains in the winter and one year they got so infected I had to go on antibiotics. I NEVER (!) put my feet on a radiator, or on a hot water bottle, and I am so conscious of not going from cold to hot too fast- eg when I come in from a frosty run I warm up before I get in the shower. I have been to the doctors about them a few times and they said I just have narrow blood vessels in my feet- the circulation of the actual blood was fine. So I have on vest, top, long sleeved top, cardi, thermal knee length socks etc! Work gets so cold (schools have rubbish heating and cannot afford it to be on all day!) so I just layer up and look like a snowman!

  2. October 20, 2011 5:24 pm

    I have pretty bad circulation, and am pretty much always complaining that I’m cold regardless of the weather or the time of year. As I am typing this, my hands feel absolutely freezing!! This cold weather isn’t helping! I just make sure I wrap up in lots of layers and drink lots of hot drinks to warm me up.

  3. October 20, 2011 6:15 pm

    I have ridiculously good circulation – I am the typical Geordie wearing t-shirts in November 😉 I hate being cold though, so when it gets really sub-zero I use most of the techniques you’ve mentioned to stave off the frostbite.

    I can sympathise very much with your problems though, as I see the pain my Mum goes through every winter – she has Raynauds and her hands go almost black. She’s so underweight and too frail to exercise, so that doesn’t help matters at all.

    I hope this winter is kind to you!


  4. October 20, 2011 7:21 pm

    I think we chatted about this on the Manchester meet up, I have terrible circulation in my hands, feet and other parts of my body too. Glad you mentioned about the chilblains as I never knew that’s what they were!

  5. October 20, 2011 8:44 pm

    Hi Sarah! About 24 years ago, I lost 50 pounds. The only negative thing about the weight loss is that I am now cold all the time. Even all these years later, It’s still with me. I do a lot of the things you talk about to try to counteract it. I look at it as a small price to pay for all of the benefits I’ve gotten from the weight loss. Stay warm!!

  6. October 20, 2011 9:04 pm

    My father in law has it, he can’t even go into the fridge for too long and his fingers go snow white … didn’t believe it until I saw it. We just try find him very warm insulating hand and foot wear for his winter sporting activities fortunately he lives in Cape town so its no where near as bad as living here.

  7. October 20, 2011 9:36 pm

    I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s last year. The rest of me doesn’t suffer with the cold too much but changes of temperature mean that my fingers go white and stop working! The worst thing is that it always happens in the supermarket when I go through the cold sections and then my fingers don’t work when I get to the till! Makes packing and paying more than a little difficult.

    Do you think the silver socks/gloves help? I’d be very interested to hear about them. I currently wear two pairs of normal gloves and thermal socks. I’ve also switched to fur lined wellies as gardening caused a lot of issues.

    I must admit that I did wonder if my chubb used to keep me warmer!


  8. October 20, 2011 9:46 pm

    I was just talking to someone about Raynaud’s today! I haven’t got it but I’ve got a weird rare blood condition that has the same effect – the pain in my hands even on a cool summer evening is horrible and in winter, it’s excruciating. I love cycling and I’m outside so much with the horses but this hand thing makes it all such a mission.
    I bought ski gloves last year which really helped but didn’t completely solve it, then my mum gave me these ones with batteries in for Christmas. They did work really well but were SO bulky, they weren’t really practical 🙂
    My friend’s got proper Raynaud’s and she takes tablets in winter which sort it out completely; she also said that if she keeps her feet really warm, her hands are fine – neither of those works for me though so I’m going to look at that link straight away, I hadn’t heard of silver gloves, thank you!
    Hope you keep warm 🙂

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