This simple self-check can help you identify signs of poor blood flow or diabetes.
How sensitive are your feet? In this video, SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack explains how this simple test can reveal signs of poor circulation or even diabetes.
You’ll need a sharpened pencil with an eraser. Try the test now, then see what your results mean below. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or circulatory issues, skip the test, but check out the tips below.
If You Felt the Difference Between Sharp and Dull
That’s a sign you have good circulation. To keep your heart and entire circulatory system in great shape, you’ll still want to schedule regular checkups with your doctor, even if you don’t notice any problems.
Why? High blood pressure and high cholesterol both increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems—but they often don’t cause any symptoms that the average person can detect. A doctor may be able to recognize “silent symptoms” based on standard measurements at a checkup.
What else you can do: keep moving! Any activity that gets your heart pumping and blood flowing helps keep your circulatory pathways open: walking, biking, rowing, swimming, dancing, taking a SilverSneakers class.
If You Didn’t Feel a Difference or Barely Felt Anything
That’s a sign of poor circulation or even diabetes. Another sign that blood isn’t flowing to your feet as it should: a foot wound or ulcer that takes a long time to heal.
Here’s what could be happening: “Let’s say you put on new shoes and take your grandkids to the zoo,” says Joseph Mills, M.D., chief of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy at Baylor College of Medicine. “Most people would stop walking if the shoes felt too tight or they got a blister, but many people with diabetes lose sensation—so they don’t realize it.” Now you have a wound, but it won’t heal properly if blood flow is abnormal.
If you’ve experienced this or noticed any of these other signs of poor circulation, your next step is to talk to your doctor. The sooner you can get a proper diagnosis and an action plan, the better.
While you’re there, ask about which exercises are safe for you. These four exercises that improve circulation may be a great place to start.
If Have Diabetes or Circulatory Issues
Work with your doctor to make sure you get the medical tests and treatment you need. Also, ask what you can do in your daily life to manage symptoms and prevent health complications—you may be surprised by how much power you have over your own health.
Staying active is a great example. Ask these three questions:
- What types of exercise are appropriate for me?
- How often and how much should I do them?
- Are there precautions or steps I should take?
Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly
SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 15,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here. Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.