Many people can't stop shivering, even during summer, but there are ways you can stop the chill
The weather is finally heating up, so why aren’t you?
Here Dr Aisling Hillick, from the online health service babylonhealth.com , explains why feeling chilly all the time could be a sign of trouble.
Chill factor: Being underweight
When your granny said you need a little “extra meat on your bones” to keep you warm, she was right.
“If you’re underweight, with a BMI of less than 18.5, or if you have a low body fat ratio you may have an increased sensitivity to the cold,” says Dr Hillick.
“This will affect your whole body and you may find you need to wear heavy clothing in mild weather.
Being underweight can mean you feel the cold more
“Body fat stores energy and helps the body resist the cold,” she adds.
“Of course it may be that you are underweight due to a medical condition, such as cancer or anorexia , so if you’re concerned speak to your GP who will arrange an investigation.”
Chill factor: An underactive thyroid
“Feeling the cold is a common symptom for those suffering from an underactive thyroid,” says Dr Hillick.
“The thyroid is a small gland at the base of the front of our neck and its job is to regulate bodily functions such as breathing, cell repair and temperature.
“When this gland isn’t working properly it doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone, causing some of these bodily functions to slow down.
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An underactive thyroid could also be the reason you always feel cold
"A by-product of this is that the body doesn’t create enough heat.”
Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid include dry skin, tiredness, weight gain and constipation, so if you are experiencing any of these, see your GP .
The condition is diagnosed by a simple blood test and treated with daily medication.
Chill factor: Diabetes
If your hands and feet feel tingly and you are experiencing a burning, numb or cold sensation in them, diabetes could be to blame.
“Diabetes can cause a false sensation of feeling cold due to nerve damage,” explains Dr Hillick.
“Persistently high blood sugar can attack the nerves and with diabetes this nerve damage usually starts in the hands and feet.
“Additionally, diabetes can affect circulation by damaging the blood vessels, which also makes you feel cold.”
Diabetes can leave you with cold hands and feet
The three classic symptoms of diabetes are: feeling tired, feeling thirsty and passing more urine than usual, so if you have any of these symptoms see your GP immediately for a blood test.
Chill factor: Peripheral vascular disease
Feet like ice blocks whenever you get into bed?
Then it may be that you are suffering from PVD, the umbrella term used for disorders that affect the blood vessels outside of the heart and brain.
“This is a condition that affects between four and 12% of people aged 55-70 and occurs when there is a narrowing or a blockage in the blood vessels,” explains Dr Hillick.
“PVD typically affects the veins and arteries that supply the arms, legs and organs below your stomach and can lead to poor circulation in the feet and legs.
"That in turn can cause a coldness of the extremities.”
Human heart attack, computer illustration
Vascular disease could make you feel cold all the time
Symptoms include pain in the calves while walking, cold pale-looking feet and a weak pulse in the feet.
Untreated, PVD can lead to ulcers and gangrene, so if you have any of these symptoms, alongside the coldness, see your GP immediately.
You are more at risk if you’re overweight, a smoker, have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Chill factor: Raynaud’s syndrome
Around 10 million people in the UK are thought to be affected by this phenomenon, a condition where the small blood vessels in the extremities are over-sensitive to changes in temperature.
“The blood vessels in the hands become very narrow when exposed to the cold and when this happens blood can’t get to the surface of the skin,” explains Dr Hillick.
“Sufferers tend to find their fingers often become cold, painful and numb.”
Sometimes the colour of the fingers can go from white to blue then red, so if this sounds familiar then see your GP.
There’s currently no cure for Raynaud’s but your GP can advise you on managing the condition.
Chill factor: Slow metabolism
We all envy people with high metabolisms as they don’t have to watch their weight, but it turns out that these lucky people also tend to feel warmer than the rest of us too.
And if you are someone with a particularly slow metabolism (the process whereby the body converts calories into energy) you are bound to be more susceptible to the cold.
“The higher the metabolic rate, the more calories you burn so as a result your body temperature increases,” explains Dr Hillick.
Slow metabolism could mean you feel cold
“Your metabolism will be affected by numerous things, including the amount of exercise you do, how muscular you are, your diet, medications, stress and hormones.”
But the good news is that we can all boost our metabolisms with physical activity and incorporating weight training into your regime.
Chill factor: Fatigue
Do you tend to feel cold when you’re tired? Well, there’s a reason for this.
“Fatigue will leave you feeling exhausted,” says Dr Hillick.
“But our muscles generate heat when they are moving so it stands to reason that inactivity will leave you feeling cold.”
Being tired could make you feel cold
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, at any given time one in five people will be feeling unusually tired.
However, extreme tiredness can sometimes be linked to an undiagnosed medical condition, such as anaemia, or a mental health issue such as stress or depression, so see your GP.
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