Feeling the cold more than you used to? If you need to pile on layer upon layer before you step outside the front door, you're not alone. We take a closer look at why you might be feeling chillier, and reveal what you can do to bolster your tolerance to the cold. Why a slowing metabolism can make you feel cold
Your natural metabolic rate slows as you get older, which lowers the core body temperature and can make you feel the cold more intensely. This is part and parcel of the ageing process, but you can help speed up your metabolism and boost your tolerance to the cold by maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI), taking regular exercise and avoiding crash dieting, which research shows can decrease the metabolic rate by as much as 20%.
Poorer micro-circulation and feeling cold
If your hands and feet feel like blocks of ice when you brave the cold, poor micro-circulation could be to blame. As we grow older, the body produces fewer blood vessels and the capillary walls tend to slacken. This reduces micro-circulation, making the delivery of blood - and heat - to the skin's surface and the extremities less efficient.
Maintaining a healthy BMI is key for optimal micro-circulation, as is exercise, which relaxes the blood vessels, increasing blood flow. Certain foods, such as oily fish, blueberries and walnuts can be beneficial, too. Still smoking? Giving up will also boost micro-circulation and help shore up your cold defences.
Thinning skin linked to feeling colder
Your skin becomes thinner with age and the insulating layer of subcutaneous fat beneath the dermis decreases. This makes the body less efficient at conserving heat. Warmth is lost more readily and people with less subcutaneous fat find it harder to maintain a comfortable body temperature. There's not a lot you can do about this one, but boosting your metabolism and micro-circulation through exercise and healthy eating should make you feel less cold overall.
How shrinking muscles make you feel colder
After the age of 50, the average person sheds around 10% of their muscle mass with each passing decade. Your muscles produce around a quarter of your resting body heat. The more muscles you have, the more heat your body produces, making for a toastier you. Increasing healthy protein in your diet and taking up regular strength training either by lifting weights or using your own body weight will enable you to conserve muscle and rebuild the bulk you've lost, helping you feel warmer as a result.
Prescribed drugs and feeling colder
In addition to these natural changes in our bodies, the medications we take could be responsible for making us feel cold. Commonly prescribed drugs among the over-50s that can lower body temperature and increase sensitivity to cool temperatures include beta-blockers and blood thinners such as Warfarin. If you suspect your medication is making you feel perished to the bone as a side effect, it's worth speaking to your GP, who may be able to lower the dose or suggest an alternative drug.
Medical conditions that can make you feel cold
A number of medical conditions can also increase sensitivity to the cold. These include Raynaud's syndrome, type 2 diabetes, which is often accompanied by numbness in the extremities, an underactive thyroid, atherosclerosis, iron deficiency anaemia and pernicious anaemia, all of which are relatively common in older people.
Following your doctor's advice and managing these treatable conditions should reduce symptoms and prevent you feeling so painfully cold. In the meantime, investing in the best gloves and warmest socks, stocking up on hand warmers and generally staying as snug as possible should mitigate the worst effects of any cold you encounter.
The writer is a freelancer
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