Your circulation system, also known as your cardiovascular system, is essential to wound healing because it is an important part of your body’s immune response. Your heart pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood away from the heart through your arteries. Your veins carry deoxygenated, nutrient-poor blood back to the heart. When you are injured, your blood carries extra nutrients and white blood cells to the injured tissue. If your circulation is limited, however, enough blood may not reach the wound which can delay healing. The longer a wound goes untreated, the greater the risk of infection, hospitalization and possibly amputation or loss of life.
Medical Conditions that Affect Your Circulation System
There are many forms of cardiovascular disease that can compromise or reduce your ability to heal. In addition, many people living with a form of heart disease are also living with diabetes, a condition that is also damaging to arteries and veins. People living with these common conditions are at greater risk for developing a non-healing wound:
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
- History of heart attack
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- Heart valve problems
- History of stroke
- Venous disease
Smoking Is Harmful to Circulation
If you currently smoke or vape, or have a history of smoking, you are at greater risk for chronic wounds due to poor circulation. Smoking, and all forms of nicotine use, cause blood vessels to narrow and harden which reduces circulation. When this happens, wounds can fail to heal because the oxygen and nutrients carried in your blood cannot get to your wound. The good news is that if you quit smoking now, your circulation will begin to improve within two weeks. Learn more at cancer.org. If you need help to quit smoking, visit smokefree.gov.
Ways to Improve Blood Flow
The average adult heart pumps about 100,000 times a day, circulating 5 to 6 quarts of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels. As impressive as that sounds, you will improve your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood every time you get moving. Even moderate exercise, such as walking or chair-based workouts, can make a significant improvement in your health. If you are a smoker, the fastest way to improve your circulation is to stop smoking immediately.
You can find more information to help improve your overall health and wellbeing at our 2021 The Year of Healing page.