Peripheral vascular disease, peripheral artery disease and intermittent claudication can all cause circulation problems in the legs and feet. In these conditions, your arteries become clogged with plaque and narrowed, making it harder for the blood to reach your extremities. The evidence is still preliminary and conflicting on whether any vitamins can help improve these conditions, and you should always check with your doctor before taking any new supplements.
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Not getting enough niacin could affect your circulation. Women need at least 14 milligrams per day, and men need at least 16 milligrams. Other B vitamins may also be helpful, although research is still in the preliminary stages. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in September 2003 noted that men who had the highest folate intakes had a 33 percent lower risk for PAD than those with the lowest folate intakes. Another study, published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery in March 2004, found that people with low folate or vitamin B-6 levels were more likely to get peripheral arterial occlusive disease. Vitamin B-12 may also be helpful for limiting vascular disease, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition in May 2012, which found that those with low vitamin B-12 levels were more likely to get PVD.
Vitamins C and E
Writing on the Daily Mail website, Dr. John Briffa notes that vitamins C and E may help improve circulation in those with PVD. The theory is that taking 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day of vitamin C will have an antioxidant effect that may help limit damage to the cells in your arteries, and thus artery-clogging fat deposits. Vitamin E can have a blood-thinning effect when taken in doses of 400 to 1,000 international units per day, which may make it easier for your blood to pass through narrow blood vessels. However, more research is necessary to verify any potential benefits in improved circulation with these vitamin supplements. These doses are also higher than the recommended dietary allowances for these vitamins, so don't take them in these amounts without first checking with your doctor to make sure they would be safe for you.
Low vitamin D levels could increase your risk for PAD, according to research at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine. This study, published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in 2008, found that as blood levels of vitamin D increased, the risk for PAD decreased. Further research is necessary to determine whether taking vitamin D supplements once you already have this condition will improve circulation.
Other Beneficial Changes
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2005 found that taking a supplement containing a mix of oleic acid, EPA, DHA, folic acid and vitamins A, B-6, D and E helped improve the symptoms of PVD compared to a skim milk-based supplement with vitamins A and D. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends eating a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol and high in fiber. Getting plenty of exercise, such as walking, may also help improve the circulation in your legs, according to Briffa.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Daily Mail: How to Boost Your Circulation Naturally
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peripheral Artery Disease and Intermittent Claudication
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University: Einstein Researchers Find That Vitamin D May Protect Against Peripheral Artery Disease
- The Journal of Nutrition: The Use of B Vitamin Supplements and Peripheral Arterial Disease Risk in Men Are Inversely Related
- Journal of Vascular Surgery: Dietary Folate and Vitamin B6 Are Independent Predictors of Peripheral Arterial Occlusive Disease
- Daily Mail: Vitamins B12 and B9 Help Fight Vascular Disease, Study Shows
- Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: Lowering Homocysteine and Modifying Nutritional Status With Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 in Indian Patients of Vascular Disease
- Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Prevalence of Peripheral Arterial Disease
- The Journal of Nutrition: Daily Supplementation With (n-3) PUFAs, Oleic Acid, Folic Acid, and Vitamins B-6 and E Increases Pain-Free Walking Distance and Improves Risk Factors in Men With Peripheral Vascular Disease