Your adult kids are wearing T-shirts and shorts – and so are the grandchildren. Meanwhile, you’re wearing long pants, multiple layers up top and boots. And you’re still cold. You have visions of your grandmother – not your grandfather – wrapped in warm shawls. What is going on?
While increasing sensitivity to the cold may be a sign of a medical problem, it’s more likely to be just another one of those challenges we face as we hit the 60s, 70s and beyond.
As we age, our circulation takes a hit because the walls of the blood vessels lose their elasticity and the fat layer under the skin that helps conserve body heat starts to thin. Our metabolic responses to the cold may also be slower; specifically the trigger to direct blood vessels to constrict in order to keep the body temperature up.
What else may be to blame?
1. You’re too thin
When you’re underweight, you don’t have the body fat to insulate you from the cold, explains nutritionist Maggie Moon. Skimping on calories also puts the brakes on your metabolism, so that, in turn, you don’t create enough body heat.
Solution? Fatten up.
2. Your thyroid is out of whack
That butterfly-shaped gland in your neck is responsible for a range of issues when it isn’t functioning property, and sensitivity to cold is one of them.
Dr Holly Phillips, author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough, says: “Always being cold is a tell-tale sign of hypothyroidism, which means your thyroid doesn’t secrete enough thyroid hormone.”
When this hormone is not produced at the right level, your metabolism slows, preventing your body’s engine from producing adequate heat. The problem is more prevalent in women who are over age 60.
Solution? See your doctor.
3. You don’t get enough iron
Iron helps your red blood cells carry oxygen through your body. Studies suggest that an iron deficiency has an impact on the thyroid, making that gland less effective at generating the heat your body needs. An iron deficiency also affects circulation.
Solution? Get your GP to arrange a blood test to check your iron levels. Boost your iron intake by eating meat, eggs, leafy greens, beetroot, nuts and seeds. Also eat foods rich in vitamin C – such as oranges, tomatoes, berries, kiwi fruit and capsicum – to boost iron absorption.
4. You have poor circulation
Cold hands and feet might indicate a circulation problem. Cardiovascular disease can be one cause. Your heart may not be pumping blood effectively or you may have a blockage of the arteries.
Solution? Check in with your doctor.
5. You don’t get enough sleep
“Sleep deprivation can wreck havoc on your nervous system, throwing off regulatory mechanisms in the brain that affect body temperature,” Dr Phillips says.
Studies suggest that a lack of quality snooze time leads to a reduction in activity in the hypothalamus, the control panel in the brain where body temperature is regulated.
Solution? Plan your night’s sleep better or see your GP if it’s an ongoing problem.
6. You’re dehydrated
“Up to 60 per cent of the adult human body is water, and water helps regulate body temperature,” Ms Moon said. “If you’re adequately hydrated, water will trap heat and release it slowly, keeping your body temperature in a comfortable zone. With less water, your body is more sensitive to extreme temperatures.”
Solution? Aim for the requisite eight glasses of water a day at a minimum.
7. You’re a woman
Do you have the doona pulled up while hubby has it scrunched in the middle? Cold is an accepted gendered condition.
“In general, women are better at conserving heat than men,” health.com says. “In order to do this, women’s bodies are programmed to maintain blood flow to vital organs such as the brain and heart.”
This directs blood flow away from other parts of the body such as hands and feet.
Solution? Hmmm, maybe separate beds?
Do you find yourself feeling the cold more as you get older? Have you found any creative fixes?
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.