It’s normal to start shivering when you forget to wear a jacket on a chilly day. Or even bundle up with a blanket and a space heater in the middle of winter. But when you’re feeling cold for what seems like no reason at all (and everyone around you is perfectly fine), it might be time to ask yourself what’s really going on with your body.
And you’re probably not alone.
While there are a few possible medical reasons to consider, the culprit might simply be your lifestyle. Regardless, we’ve laid out why you’re feeling like an icicle all the time and what experts suggest as a solution.
Poor Blood Flow
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “The toes and nose are the first that goes,” then you might know a thing or two about blood flow. When circulation is hindered, blood is restricted from reaching the parts of the body farthest from the heart, like the nose, toes, and hands, resulting in coldness. To increase blood circulation, try light exercise, wearing compression socks, and massage (putting on more layers helps, too, of course).
“In general, if you feel numbness or tingling, or your fingers or toes turn white or blue. These could be signs of something more serious and you should talk with your primary care provider,” said Charlotte Gardner, physician assistant at Samaritan Health Services.
Poor blood flow isn’t a condition in itself, but it stems from several other health issues, causing your body to be cold. Here, the most common health issues that could be making you feel cold all the time.
Anemia is a condition where the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells required to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It’s typically caused by an iron deficiency. Iron is a vital mineral in the body that largely contributes to the production of red blood cells. Along with fatigue and weakness, one common symptom is coldness in the hands and feet. If your body is lacking in iron, it won’t have the energy it needs to keep you warm.
Luckily, an easy fix to get more iron into your system is through your diet—meat, leafy greens, nuts, and beans. Iron supplements can also be a solution. But first, check with your doctor if you suspect you’re anemic. You can get a blood test that determines whether you are, and from there, you can discuss what next steps are best for you.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when the arteries in the legs, stomach, arms and head are narrowed, causing reduced blood flow to your limbs. This leads to a cold and tingling sensation in the legs, feet, and hands. However, many cases of PAD can be managed with specific lifestyle changes that decrease risk.
“Most circulatory disorders benefit from exercise, weight loss, control of blood pressure and blood sugar levels and stopping smoking,” said Himanshu Tandon, MD, UnityPoint Health cardiologist. He explains that medications, such as aspirin and cholesterol-lowering pills can also be beneficial for arterial diseases.
When your body—usually hands and feet— feels cold, but you aren’t actually cold to the touch, it could be a warning sign of diabetes. You may also get a numbness or cold feeling after you’ve eaten. “It may not be physical, but just the sensation of being cold,” said Margarita Rohr, MD, internal medicine specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It’s just an error in the message sent to the brain from the feet or hands.” (Check out other diabetes warning signs here.)
While there is no cure for diabetes, doctors typically prescribe specific medications for managing the condition or suggest making lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercise and weight loss. If you presume you have diabetes, check with your doctor about a diagnosis and long-term care.
Lack of sleep
Nothing good usually comes from skipping out on sleep. And it may be the reason you’re feeling chilly because, believe it or not, sleep is essential for regulating body temperature.
“Sleep deprivation affects so many systems in our body, including our regulatory mechanisms in the brain,” says Gardner. “When we lack sleep, our metabolism slows and we can also experience reduced activity in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls body temperature.”
If it’s a struggle for you to get your seven to nine hours of shuteye every night, here are some tips for helping you fix your sleep schedule.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can always have an impact on your body, whether it’s weight fluctuation or excessive fatigue. But along with a change in your mood and emotions, stress can lead to cold sensations or feeling chilled due to poor circulation. According to Leann Poston, MD. physician at Invigot Medical, stress can stimulate your body’s fight-or-flight response, causing the blood vessels to constrict.
People who suffer from anxiety are often prone to hyperventilating, which can also result in less efficient blood flow. And as described before, poor blood flow causes cold sensations. A sudden rush of adrenaline can also cause a full-body chill or shiver down your spine, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Although there might be some serious causes for why you’re always cold, it could be related to aging. As people age, they’re more likely to be on meds, and some of them (like beta blockers) can have side effects related to being cold.
But in general, studies show that as we age, we experience lower body temperatures due to a loss of thermoregulation, the process that allows your body to maintain its core internal temperature. “As muscle mass decreases and skin and tissue thin, we may feel cold more intensely than when younger,” Gardner says.
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