Is It Chilly In Here, Or Is It Them? Addressing And Coping With Feelings Of Coldness

24 April 2017
 Categories: , Blog


If your aging parent or grandparent often complains that he or she feels cold, even when the temperature seems pleasantly warm to others in the room, there is a reason for that. Find out why so many individuals are feeling colder as they grow older, and how you can encourage them to banish their chills.

As Age Increases, Temperature Decreases

According to Harvard Health Publications, a study conducted at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York concluded that geriatric subjects registered lower body temperatures than the 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit expected in the younger population. This decrease in body temperature may be the result of the age-related decline of body functions, such as the following:

  • Slowed metabolism leads to a decrease in energy. When seniors are physically less active as a result of waning energy, the reduction of energy output, combined with a sluggish metabolism, fails to produce enough heat to stay warm.
  • Inefficient blood circulation results when the walls of blood vessels lose their elasticity, and vasoreceptors may no longer be as effective at carrying out their roles in blood vessel constriction to keep the body temperature as warm.
  • Reduced muscle mass and subcutaneous fat stores mean less insulation to hold in warmth and keep the body temperature up.

Before attributing the state of a lower body temperature to these age-related changes, consider your loved one's medical history and any other new symptoms that may have cropped up.

Medical Reasons Can Bring the Mercury Down

Some medications can cause a decrease in body temperature as a side effect. For example, beta blocker drugs, which may be taken to treat hypertension, can slow the heart rate, thereby reducing blood circulation to the extremities and causing the individual to feel cold. Some medical conditions that can cause patients of any age to experience coldness include the following:

  • Hypothyroidism, which is an under active thyroid gland, can impair a person's ability to regulate body temperature. Other signs of hypothyroidism include thinning hair, brittle nails and weight gain.
  • High cholesterol levels can decrease blood flow.
  • Diabetes can result in kidney damage, or diabetic nephropathy, which can cause a person to feel cold.

If your family member has recently started to complain of feeling cold, it is imperative that he or she pursues a medical evaluation and laboratory screenings to rule out a medical condition that may require treatment. Many conditions that present with coldness as a symptom can be managed with medications. Once it has been determined that a medication or medical condition is not the cause of coldness, there are steps that can be taken to help older individuals remain warm.

Clothes Make the Man or Woman Warm

It makes sense to don more clothing when one feels cold in order to warm up, but certain tips for dressing can yield the best results. Try applying the following strategies to help your loved one dress for warmth:

  • Gift him or her with a new vest. When the body's core temperature drops, it will pull heat from the extremities to make up the warmth. By wearing a vest, the body's core can retain more of its own heat.
  • Encourage him or her to dress in enough layers so that he or she is comfortable and can adjust body temperature by peeling off and adding back layers as needed instead of having to constantly adjust the thermostat.
  • Dampness can cause a chill. Consider investing in wool socks and sleepwear or blankets that will provide warmth while the wool fibers wick away moisture from the body.

In addition to dressing to keep warm, confirm with the physician that the person is at a healthy weight for his or her age and gender, and take the recommended steps to achieve a healthy weight. Older individuals should also engage in age-appropriate exercise routine to get the cardiovascular system pumping.

While feeling cold is not unusual as a person gets older, it is important to address the issue and take steps to maintain comfort for a more enjoyable quality of life. 

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