Many factors influence the health of the capillary network – much of which we can control – such as the type of food we eat, the habits we adopt and the exercise we take. Below are some lifestyle pointers that will enhance the health of the small blood vessel network and reduce the risk of fluid retention.

Salt Restriction
Most of us eat more salt (sodium) than we need. In the UK, the average adult consumes about 9 grams a day (about 2 level teaspoons a day). This is in excess of the 6 grams that is recommended by doctors. Excess salt intakes can lead to fluid retention because the salt tends to drag fluid into the cells. Further down the line, if intakes continue to be high, there is also the possibility of more serious health concerns such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart and kidney disease.

The salt we add to food when cooking or at the table only accounts for 20% of our total salt intake. Another 20% comes from naturally occurring salt in unprocessed foods, whilst the majority (at least 60%) comes from manufactured foods; which contain salt to improve their taste. So cutting down on the salt you use at the table will only achieve so much. To really cut down on salt you will need to reduce the amount of prepared foods and ready meals you eat.

Reducing caffeine
Although tea, coffee and colas don’t necessarily have to be excluded altogether, excessive intakes (more than 5 cups a day) can upset the fluid balance in the body, by placing stress on the kidneys. These drinks are referred to as having ‘diuretic’ effects on the body – they encourage a loss of vital fluid and essential minerals if drunk to excess. The long term effects of drinking these popular beverages aren’t good for fluid retention sufferers – they can actually lead to more severe forms of fluid retention.

Quit smoking
Smoking is known to cause so many health problems, and damaging the delicate capillaries is just one of them. Fluid retention is therefore just another good reason for giving up!

Water
Whilst on the subject of liquids – don’t be fooled into thinking that the more water you drink, the more fluid you will hang on to – this just isn’t the case. A dehydrated body will hang on to fluid as a preservation exercise – so aim to drink a medium size glass of water every waking hour of the day; somewhere between 1.5 – 2 litres a day.

Exercise
Standing, lying or sitting still for long periods of time doesn’t help fluid retention. That’s because the small blood vessel network in the body relies on muscle contraction to move its fluid around the body. Encouraging this movement of fluid leads to better elimination of waste material and also a better delivery system for nutrients and oxygen – so get into the habit of being less sedentary.

You don’t have to invest in expensive equipment or join a gym to make exercise a part of your life. There are plenty of different forms of activity that can be easily built into your routine. Walking is gentle and easy to fit into your lifestyle, for example. It stimulates the blood vessels, heart, lungs, muscles and of course, the mind. Aim for 10 or 15 minutes a day to start with and build up to at least 30 minutes.

Swing your arms and walk fast enough to work up a slight sweat; you should be slightly out of breath.

Remember to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.