I often wonder what it must be like to have fingers and toes that don’t always feel like icicles. I wish I was exaggerating, or that my comparing human flesh to frozen water was even the tiniest bit dramatic. I don’t know why I feel cold all the time; even as I sit here writing this very article, wearing the comfiest, warmest sweater I own, plus a pair of fuzzy slippers, I still feel a chill nipping at the tops of my toes. As for my hands, forget it. I’d be wearing gloves 24/7 if it didn't make it impossible for me to get my work done.
Just in case this resonates, and you, too, understand how it is to be the only one shivering in a crowded room, I reached out to Robert Glatter, M.D., an associate professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, and Lyndsey Lord, vice president of clinical services at Cipher Health, to figure out what’s causing the chill.
Now, for the record, I’m pretty sure I was just born cold. I can remember being in elementary school, and my mom would take my hand before crossing the street, and she’d say, “Oh, Jules. Your hands are freezing.” Which wasn’t news to me. I barely notice the cool nature of my hands and feet anymore; it’s always been a part of me. But when I caught wind of a Swedish study showing that cold weather conditions might increase your chance of a heart attack, I thought to myself, “But, I’m always cold.” What does this mean for people like me, whose body is forever freezing?
This week, researchers from Lund University in Sweden published their findings in the journal JAMA Cardiology, and according to the study, the team discovered a link between cold weather and heart attacks (yikes). Comparing the details of heart attack incidents in Sweden with corresponding weather station data, Dr. David Erlinge, an author of the study and head of Lund University’s cardiology department, told CNN that he noticed the risk of heart attack appeared to be significantly greater in colder conditions, i.e. when the wind picks up, the sun shines less, and atmospheric pressure is low. "When minimum temperature decreases from +20° to 0° (68°F to 32°F),” he told the news outlet in an email, “the risk of suffering a heart attack increased by 14 percent.” Basically, the colder it is outside, the greater the risk that something could go wrong in the human body. Wonderful.
But what about people like me, and maybe you, who are just naturally so cold all the damn time? Is your own body putting you at risk for a heart attack, or any other serious medical issues? Lord tells Elite Daily that being cold or warm “does not, in itself, put a patient at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.” In fact, Glatter adds, cold hands and/or feet are part of the “body's natural response to control your internal body temperature.” Translation: Don’t sweat it (see what I did there?).
You’ll know when cold hands and feet are an actual health issue, the two experts tell me, because being a little chilly will prove to be a small part of a bigger, more prominent issue. For instance, if you also notice the skin on your hands is discolored, this might be a red flag that your blood circulation is off, Glatter says. If you experience hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, he adds, feeling cold is often a symptom, while Lord tells Elite Daily that a tingling sensation in your hands, on top of a chill, could point toward a vascular disease (aka a health issue that involves your blood vessels).
Granted, none of that sounds particularly great, but again, unless you’re noticing other symptoms on top of a couple of cold fingers and toes, your chilly state is probably nothing to worry about. Still, being in a constant state of freezing can get frustrating, especially when you’re bundled under sweaters and blankets and nothing seems to warm you up. And if this is the case, what’s the alternative?
"The most efficient way to warm your hands is with moist heat," Glatter tells Elite Daily. "Warm circulating water or even steam is the most effective way to warm up." So turn the shower faucet to hot, close the bathroom door, and you've got yourself an at-home sauna. You can also run the tap on high heat, and put your hands over the pool of water so that the vapor veils your cold fingers. It's kind of like a misty blanket, only this method is apparently more effective than the fuzzy cloth you've been snuggling under, says Glatter. Who would have thought?
You can also adjust your body temperature by making adjustments from the inside out. "Ensuring you are well rested, hydrated, and nourished will help lessen symptoms of feeling cold," Lord says.
And, when worst comes to worst, blankets can help. Just keep layering.