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The circulatory system consists of the heart and blood vessels, including arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries are responsible for supplying other organs with oxygenated blood, while veins bring deoxygenated blood back to the heart (the exceptions are the pulmonary arteries, which bring deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs, and pulmonary veins, which bring oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart). Capillaries are located in organs and tissues and they serve to exchange the nutrients, oxygen, and metabolic products between blod and tissues. Circulation can be disturbed on any of these levels.

Causes

Many factors can affect the functioning of the circulatory system, such as atherosclerosis, thrombosis, embolism, obesity, and diabetes.

Atherosclerosis is a chronic condition that narrows blood vessels over time, especially the arteries. This narrowing is caused by accumulation of plaques right beneath the inside layer of the arteries. Although this condition happens in all people with aging, it can be accelerated by high cholesterol levels, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and other lifestyle factors. As a consequence, narrowed arteries cannot supply the organs with enough oxygen, so the affected parts of the body can become painful and even change color. Long term oxygen deprivation to a organ can cause its permanent damage.

Thrombosis is the aggregation of platelets inside of the blood vessels. It can be caused by various hematological disorders, distended veins, and inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis). Organs supplied by thrombotic blood vessels are usually pale and painful. Thrombosis of deep veins of the legs cause local pain and swelling, but can also be very dangerous, as the thrombus can detach and travel through the circulatory system causing. The detached thrombus is called embolus, and it can get stuck in some of the small blood vessels (usually in the lungs), thus causing embolism.

Obesity has a bad influence on the circulation, as it increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol levels). In turn, diabetes also increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and destroys small blood vessels.

Signs And Symptoms

Depending on the affected organs, symptoms of poor circulation are variable. It can manifest in the extremities, especially the legs, with pain, redness or paleness, and swelling. These symptoms can range from mild to severe to the point where they affect mobility. If there is a problem vith venous system, the extremities are usually warm, red to purple, and swollen. If the arteries are affected, they are pale and painful, especially during physical activity.

Treatment

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should talk to your doctor to schedule the necessary examinations. Depending on the cause of disturbed circulation, you may require surgery, medication, or just advice on lifestyle changes. You should generally try to be more physically active, eat healthy, and avoid smoking. If you have any of the risk factors such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, or high blood pressure, make sure to take your medications and keep them under control to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and consequent circulation problems.

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