Why is circulation so important in Diabetes?


Diabetes has been dubbed the next “health catastrophe” in Western countries. It is set to be a massive problem for many people as well as health systems. Thankfully, there are simple lifestyle changes that can be made to prevent and manage it and many people diagnosed with Diabetes will make healthier choices.

What happens in our bodies in Diabetes?

Our bodies need glucose for energy. An organ called the pancreas produces the hormone insulin which acts like a metabolic traffic cop, allowing glucose into cells where it's burnt as energy. Too much food means a traffic jam of glucose in the blood, and combined with insufficient exercise, the effect of insulin is overpowered. Instead of being a vital food source, glucose becomes a threat.

Why is my circulation affected by my Diabetes?

Poor circulation is when a part of the body doesn’t get enough blood flow. Diabetes can cause the small blood vessels to weaken and break and the large blood vessels to harden, narrow and become blocked with fatty deposits. Other conditions that often go along with Diabetes add to this, including high blood pressure, inactive lifestyle, high cholesterol levels and being overweight.

How will I know if I have poor circulation?

Commonly, you will have cold or numb feet or hands; your skin might look a bit blue; dry or cracked skin; brittle toe nails and slow wound healing. Long term poor circulation particularly affects the heart, brain, legs and feet. This leads to an increased risk of heart attack, angina, stroke and when it affects the limbs, peripheral vascular disease. This can cause pain in the lower legs, slow healing of wounds, development of infections, ulcers and in severe cases gangrene.

What can I do to prevent poor circulation?

Poor circulation can be improved with physical activity, better blood sugar control through diet choices and quitting smoking. Thinking about making changes can seem daunting but it needn’t be, start small and make changes one step at a time. 

Gradually build up activity levels, starting with a short walk and work up to 30 minutes a day. Find a friend to walk with you to help with motivation. Ask your doctor or nurse about a Green Prescriptions and the extra support they can offer.

Small changes can make a big difference in our diet too. Divide your plate into half veggies, a quarter protein and a quarter carbohydrates. Choose carbs with a low Glycaemic Index, that is foods that are digested slowly, keep you feeling fuller for longer and keep your blood glucose levels even. Foods include buckwheat, brown rice, whole grain bread, lentils, broccoli, oats and peanuts. Avoid processed food as much as possible and swap fizzy drink for water. See Diabetes NZ resources or our Wellbeing Solution for Diabetes as a downloadable leaflet.

Omega-3 oils have been shown to prevent the cells in the body becoming resistant to the effects of insulin and sugar regulation. The recommended daily dose of EPA and DHA is 1000mg. Good oils can be found in avocados; flaxseed; nuts; soy; olive, sunflower, canola, peanut oils; sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds and salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines.

Vitamin C at doses of 500 to 1500 mg/day is thought to help sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it gets used up as energy. It also helps keep blood vessels and kidneys healthy to reduce the development of complications like nephropathy, neuropathy and retinopathy. Low vitamin C levels are associated with poor wound healing, elevated cholesterol levels and a lowered immune system.

Vitamin E at doses of 400 to 800 IU/day may improve the action of insulin. Vitamin E works as an antioxidant to reduce the oxidation of cholesterol, improve blood vessel function, blood flow to the heart and kidney function.

Circulation boosters are a fairly new treatment that can be used to improve circulation. There are many different brands on the market but Revitive has been tested at London South Bank University and proven to increase blood circulation in the lower legs and feet; reduce swelling in the lower legs and feet and reduce pain and discomfort caused by poor blood circulation and swelling.

These units work by sending little electrical impulses through the nerve endings of the feet to contract the lower leg muscles and improve circulation. You place both feet on the unit and alter the level of impulses to suit you. We recommend using it 30 minutes a day for best results.

Click here for reviews and more information, or come in to Ahuriri Pharmacy and ask us about it. The new model should be available in the next week or so.


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