Why am I so cold?
November 17, 2010 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Why are my hands so cold? More importantly, what can I do to fix it?

I never used to get cold. I was always hot, and wanted the temperature turned down. But this year, I have lost a significant amount of weight. I am still overweight (BMI ~ 30), but much less so than before. And now I get cold every day, especially my hands and feet.

I understand the physiology. My blood vessels constrict and reduce the blood flow to my limbs. However, I have lost the weight through healthy diet and exercise. I run around 25 miles a week. So my circulation should not be an issue, nor something like diabetes. Since it has just started with the weight loss, I am ruling out a disorder like Raynaud's disease. The only cause I have seen that concerned me was anemia, but my diet includes a lot of iron rich foods like broccoli, nuts, oats, and fish, all of which I have at least 4-5 times a week. Plus I had blood work done last week, and I think they would have mentioned an iron deficiency, so I don't think that is it.

Also, I live in Florida. The outside temperature right now is around 80F. Inside around 72. This has been happening since July or so, during the hottest summer on record.

In addition to just being generally uncomfortable, it also makes my wife recoil when I touch her with my icy fingers.

So I am frustrated by this. What can I do to not have cold hands all the time?
posted by I am the Walrus to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure there's anything to be done here. Maybe it will get better. Maybe it won't. Some people just have poor circulation without any actual pathology.

It may also be a factor of getting older, sorry to say. I never used to have cold extremities, but now I do. I'm as healthy as I ever was, no significant weight change, just... yeah, now my feet get cold.
posted by valkyryn at 7:51 AM on November 17, 2010

Here's a recent previous question you might be interested in.
posted by phunniemee at 7:59 AM on November 17, 2010

I don't know if this will help you, but for me doing 20+ jumping jacks really gets the blood moving and warms up my extremities nicely. But if you're getting cold in 70-80 degree weather, that's a little weird - you might want to see a doctor about that (not because I think it's dangerous, but because it sounds uncomfortable!)
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:59 AM on November 17, 2010

I know a lot of people who just stay cold, so it's not completely abnormal. I would suggest lifting weights or doing strength training of some kind. Yeah you're blood is pumping from all the running, but lifting weights will increase the blood flow to your muscles.
posted by bobber at 8:05 AM on November 17, 2010

How much caffeine do you consume?
posted by Good Brain at 8:09 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: How much caffeine do you consume?

I drink a lot of Diet Coke. Usually a 32oz cup, plus 2 x 12oz cans a day. So that is approximately 213 mg per day.
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:17 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: Per the link, that is equivalent of 2 cups of coffee, or 1 Starbucks Grande.
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:19 AM on November 17, 2010

I often have cold hands, too. In winter, especially, it helps to eat a lot of hot soup. Cold liquids like cold milkshakes, etc, will cool you down, fruits will also cool you down even if they're at room temp. Get a radiative heater, those things are amazing, I turn it on time from time and warm my fingers. Works much better than a fan-heater.
posted by rainy at 8:38 AM on November 17, 2010

Get a thyroid panel done.
posted by availablelight at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

"If your hands are cold, wear a hat." - boy scout saying, or maybe from eskimos, or possibly the lovable anonymous.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

How old are you? I ask because Raynaud's comes in two flavors: one is a complication of another underlying health problem (Raynaud's Syndrome) and the other occurs with no apparent underlying condition (Raynaud's Phenomenon). I have the latter, and I just randomly started having attacks at age ~25 or so. My doctor told me that this condition usually doesn't show up until one's early- or mid-twenties. Women are a lot more likely to have Raynaud's, but I have a male friend who has it, and it appeared around his mid-twenties too. Anyway, this probably isn't your issue because if it was, you probably would have mentioned discoloration (do your hands turn really, really red when they finally get warm again? not everyone shows the blue discoloration; my skin mostly turns patchy-white), but I thought it was worth mentioning in case you thought Raynaud's would only happen because of obesity or something.

Regardless, some of the strategies that people with Raynaud's use for dealing with cold might help (I'm sure you could find some good forum threads with a quick search). For example, I am really careful when picking up cold beverages - I put coozies on pretty much everything I drink, even water bottles (esp. the metal ones). I avoid washing my hands under cold water, even if it means I have to wait a little while for the water to warm up. I always wear wool socks and I change them as soon as they get damp. I use a cheap footbath to warm my feet up on cold days. I have some fingerless gloves I put on when I use the computer for a long time. Some people even have to use gloves when they touch things in the fridge or freezer. Mostly, the key is to not allow your extremities to get cold in the first place. It seems totally obvious, but I've been surprised at how often I make my hands cold by touching some cold thing, which could have been avoided if I'd just thought about it first.
posted by pikachulolita at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: How old are you?


I read about the discoloration with Raynaud's when checking the internet. I have never noticed this, so I am pretty sure it's not the case, but I will watch for it.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:27 AM on November 17, 2010

Anecdotal, but I lost a lot of weight about 7 years ago (100 pounds) and the first winter after the weight loss, I was freezing. Even today, anything below 60 degrees and I'm pulling out hats, scarves and gloves.

I live in North Texas, and last winter was absolutely torture (most snowfall on record), to the point where I am seriously looking at alternatives my future living plans. When it gets that bad, I feel like the cold has settled into my bones and only a hot shower can help.

Anyway, your body may still be adjusting to the weight loss. A thryoid test is probably not a bad idea as well, just to rule out any other issues that may be affecting you.
posted by lootie777 at 11:00 AM on November 17, 2010

This started happening to me when I was sixteen or so - when I was healthy, didn't drink caffeine, played soccer and did martial arts several hours a week. I hadn't lost any weight (in fact I weighed more, in muscle), though according to BMI scales I have always been underweight or on the verge of underweight. FWIW, I fell into the trap of thinking "well, this happened to me when I was in excellent shape, therefore it doesn't matter whether I work out or drink tons of coffee or do other things that are bad for my circulation, 'cause it sucks and there's nothing I can do about it." While this is on some level true, it doesn't mean that smoking or coffee (for me) aren't making it worse.

Whatever regimen you find - gingko, garlic, cayenne, no-caffeine, exercise - don't expect to see results quickly, but stick to it. Though I've been too lazy to try it, there is another gradual method developed by the army (from the other thread) that could work. Sorry I don't have an answer, I'm as desperate as you are though.
posted by ke rose ne at 11:27 AM on November 17, 2010

I took a biofeedback course in college where I trained myself to be able to raise and lower my hand temperature. Essentially you teach yourself how to dilate the blood vessels in your hands and fingers, increasing blood flow and warming the hands. We would attach small thermometers to our fingers and do some breathing and visualization exercises (imagining ourselves next to a warm fire, warming our hands, etc.). After only a few sessions I was able to visually make the thermometer rise and fall at will, though if I remember correctly this was within a range of about 5-8 degrees.

In any event, if that sounds interesting at all I'd search for 'hand warming exercises biofeedback,' or some combination of those keywords. Here's something that touches briefly on what I mean.

Otherwise, maybe some chemical handwarmers?
posted by Menthol at 12:07 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not an answer to the underlying problem, but swinging your arms in circles as fast as you can (fingers outstretched) will get blood out there quickly.
posted by notsnot at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2010

Another vote for getting your thyroid checked. Cold hands and feet are a very common symptom of hypothyroidism.
posted by scody at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2010

If you are eating less food than your body expects, esp. carbs this is a common problem.
posted by blargerz at 9:03 PM on November 17, 2010

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