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Why do people feel the cold?

Posted on by VHL Team

People shivering on sofa

Now that winter is truly setting in (temperature wise), you’ve likely already started on the heating wars. One person is freezing no matter what you do, while another still seems content in just a T-shirt. If everyone is in the same environment, why do people feel the cold differently? VHL delve into the science to bring you the answers.

There are many reasons why some people feel hotter or colder than others. The first part of this article looks at reasons why some people feel the cold more than others, while the second part looks at potential health reasons behind always feeling much hotter or much colder than those around you.

Why do some people feel the cold more than others?

Not all people are created equal. There are many physical factors which may mean that some people are more susceptible to feeling a chill than others.

Gender

Male female toilet signs

Women have a more evenly distributed fat layer than men, which works like internal insulation. The fat draws hear and blood inwards, leaving the extremities such as hands and feet feeling cold.

Men, on the other hand, tend to have greater muscle mass than women. Muscles are well supplied with blood vessels, which increases blood flow in the body. Building muscle also burns calories, which again contributes to raising body temperature.

Similarly, the more fat on a person’s body, the warmer they are likely to feel. A layer of fat is your body’s natural way of keeping your body insulated, to make sure that your organs are at the right temperature to function properly. Too much or too little fat can have an overall effect on your core temperature, the same way as wearing a coat will keep you warm.

Age

Elderly

As we age, our metabolism starts to slow down. When you metabolise food, it burns calories and generates heat, so this slower rate of metabolism causes your body temperature to drop.

Older people are also more susceptible to problems with the thyroid gland, which produces hormones that regulate body temperature. An underactive thyroid will result in a lower body temperature. Lower energy levels and reduced mobility also mean that seniors may not be as active. Moving around and using muscles generates heat, which warms the body, while a sedentary lifestyle is likely to reduce overall body temperature.

It is important to note that older people are at a greater risk of hypothermia, as their body is less able to keep itself warm. This means that a senior who is in poor health may develop hypothermia in conditions where a younger, healthier person would not. It is therefore important to ensure that older people are kept warm, as their bodies may be much colder than those of others in the room.

Hormonal factors

Females experience a greater fluctuation of hormones from week to week than men do, which is mostly caused by their menstrual cycle.

The hormone oestrogen thickens blood and is responsible for the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, before she ovulates. This blood thickening may prevent blood flow to the thinner vessels of the body, usually found in extremities such as fingers, toes and ears.

To combat this, avoid eating too many saturated fats, as these can thicken the blood and impede circulation. You can also try garlic and warming spices such as Cayenne pepper, which act as blood thinners, or eating oily fish such as mackerel or salmon, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to aid blood flow.

Progesterone is the hormone which takes over when a woman ovulates. This hormone increases your body temperature, as it is preparing your uterus to be a hospitable environment for a fertilised egg. This means that you are likely to feel hotter following ovulation until the next cycle, when oestrogen levels starts to increase.

Hormonal reasons for women feeling too hot

Pregnancy causes an increase in blood volume, sometimes by as much as 50%. To make room for this extra blood, your blood vessels dilate, bringing more blood to the surface of your skin and making you feel hotter.

Menopause and its infamous ‘hot flashes’ are perhaps the most well-known cause for a lady to be feeling the heat more than those around her. The full reasons behind hot flashes are not known, though it is likely linked to the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature, and a drop in production of oestrogen, which thickens the blood and makes it harder to circulate.

Connection between health and temperature

While it’s commonly understood that a temporary fever or chill can be a sign of a short-term illness such as infection or flu, consistently feeling too hot or too cold can be an indicator of more serious long-term health issues. If you are always too hot or always too cold, it might be a good idea to talk to a doctor.

Possible causes of feeling too cold

Hypothyroidism

Why does it make you feel cold?

Hypothyroidism means having an underactive thyroid. The hormones produced by the thyroid gland regulate a lot of important bodily functions, such as metabolism, energy levels and body temperature. If it is producing too few of these hormones, then you will feel too cold.

What are its other symptoms?

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Sudden hair loss
  • Pain or swelling in the front of the neck

Should I see a doctor?

If you have a lot of the above systems then you should see a doctor. Thyroid problems are usually hereditary and can be treated simply and effectively with medication.

Anaemia

Why does it make you feel cold?

The most common form of anaemia is iron deficiency anemia. This means that your body lacks adequate red blood cells or haemoglobin to carry oxygen to your bodily tissues, which can lead to poor circulation.

What are its other symptoms?

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat

Should I see a doctor?

If you have a lot of the above systems then you should see a doctor. Anaemia can make living your regular life difficult and can usually be treated with changes to your diet or by treating an underlying issue.

Being underweight

Body shapes & weights

Why does it make you feel cold?

If you are underweight then you have less fat to insulate your body. This means that you are more likely to feel the cold, just as someone in a T-shirt is less likely to feel the cold than someone in a jumper. Your body also generates heat as it burns calories, so if you are not taking in enough calories, your body does not have as many to burn.

What are its other symptoms?

  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Increased vulnerability to illnesses
  • BMI below 18.5

Should I see a doctor?

If you are underweight then it is likely either to lead to further health problems, or to be caused by an underlying health issue such as stress, a thyroid problem or an eating disorder. It is worth talking to a doctor to assess your health, especially if you frequently have low energy levels.

Poor circulation

Body circulation illustration

Why does it make you feel cold?

Your blood is warm and if it doesn’t circulate properly around your body, it leaves you feeling cold. Your hands and feet are the most likely places to have poor circulation, as they are furthest away from your heart, which pumps the blood around your body.

What are its other symptoms?

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle cramps

Should I see a doctor?

If you have always had cold hands and feet then this may just be the norm for your circulation, but as poor circulation is often accompanied by other health problems, you may want to see a doctor if this is a new problem, or if it is accompanied by other health issues.


VHL are here for you should you be looking to heat your home. We supply and install a range of energy efficient boilers, as well as providing annual servicing and repairs for continued, reliable use. This means you can stay warm at home, whatever the weather (or biological reasons specified above!)