Your mom is not jacking up your thermostat when she comes to visit just to be ornery. She really is cold. Or maybe you’re the perpetually-chilly person, dragging an afghan around the house from your shoulders. If you’re constantly defending yourself against the jibes of your sockless teens, it’s not you so much as it’s your … age.
Women, physiologically primed to be better at sending heat inward to protect internal organs, tend to feel the cold more than men at all ages, a split that gins up gender wars in over-air-conditioned offices.
But in general, being colder than everyone else in the room is (yet another) fun fact about getting older. The details:
- Your metabolism slows. Metabolism is literally your body’s ability to rev its own engine to create heat. It slows, you feel colder.
- Your blood vessels lose some snap. Reduced elasticity means vessels are less prompt in constricting, which is what they normally do to keep body temperature up.
- You have less insulating fat. Doesn’t matter if you’re reed thin or need to drop a few, aging changes the distribution of fat in your body, and the layer right under your skin that normally traps hat thins out.
Visiting the home of your perpetually chilly mom? Wear layers you can peel off as her heat rises.
There are a few health concerns that might be reasons for a greater sensitivity to the cold, says Nathan Wei, M.D., a board-certified rheumatologist with a roster full of older patients. There are multiple factors that make older folks cold, he said.
“Circulatory changes in older patients with diabetes make them feel the cold more, and medications such as beta-blockers (for high blood pressure) also cause people to feel cold.” He also said that certain conditions, like hypothyroidism (a less-active thyroid, more common in older people) increase the chill. Reynaud’s disease, a blood-vessel disorder, may also be a culprit.
But barring any medical issue, the good news is that being cold all the time isn’t a health risk for most people. Visiting the home of your perpetually chilly mom? Wear layers you can peel off as her heat rises. If it’s you feeling frigid, get some good slippers and put on a sweater already.