It's springtime everywhere except inside your body, where — because you are always cold — an endless winter reigns. The rising temperatures and rays of golden sun shining down on us mean nothing to your freezing fingers, ice cube-like toes, or the nine sweatshirts you keep in your desk at all times. Some people are naturally inclined/doomed to always feel cold, of course — but sometimes, feeling permafrosted from the inside out is a sign of a serious health problem.
Most of the time, feeling a tad chilly is nothing to worry about, especially if you're a woman. The idea of a woman rubbing her permanently cold feet on her much warmer male partner isn't a just fabricated sitcom stereotype — women tend to feel more sensitive to the cold than men, because estrogen can sometimes reduce the flow of blood to our extremities. And since the temperature of our extremities tend to control how the rest of our bodies feel, cold hands can lead you to feel chilled all over.
Other harmless bodily variables, like your age or the rate of your resting metabolism, can also impact how torturous a trip down the frozen foods aisle at the grocery store feels. But sometimes, feeling a persistent chill on the sweatiest day of August can be a symptom of a more serious illness. So how can you tell when it's time to visit the doctor, and when it's time to just embrace your inner Elsa? Read on and check out our list of six reasons you might feel like you have antifreeze running through your veins.
Why Does It Make You Cold?: People with hypothyroidism have an underactive thyroid, which means that their thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones. The hormones that come out of our thyroid regulate a lot of crucial bodily functions, like your metabolism, energy levels, and — you guessed it — body temperature. This can lead folks with hypothyroidism to basically walk around feeling like an exhausted human ice cream cone.
What Are Its Other Symptoms?: Feeling tired all of the time, despite getting adequate sleep; low sex drive; unusually dry skin; constipation; heavy menstrual flow; unexplained weight gain; sudden hair loss; pain or swelling in the front of the neck, where the thyroid is located.
Should I See A Doctor?: Most definitely. An underactive thyroid can be treated very simply and effectively with medication — so there's no reason to stay all cold, exhausted, and constipated your whole life. Thyroid problems are hereditary, so there's nothing to feel guilty or embarrassed about. Just head to the doctor and ask to get your thyroid levels checked out.
Why Does It Make You Cold?: The most common form of anemia is iron deficiency anemia‚ a health problem where you don't have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry adequate oxygen to our bodily tissues. This can result in poor circulation, and — voila! — suddenly, you're wearing a fur-lined parka at the beach.
What Are Its Other Symptoms?: Pale skin; dizziness; fatigue or exhaustion; irregular heartbeat.
Should I See A Doctor?: Absolutely. Anemia is a serious health condition that can make living your regular life difficult — and one that can typically be solved via changes to your diet or treatment of an underlying medical issue. So if you think you might be anemic, call up your doctor for an appointment — you might walk away with a prescription for a steak dinner, which is definitely one of the top ten ways a trip to the doctor can end.
3. Being Underweight
Why Does It Make You Cold?: When you're underweight (i.e. you have a Body Mass Index number below 18.5), you have less fat to insulate your body, and thus you are more vulnerable to feeling the cold around you. And if you're underweight because you're not eating enough, you body may also be producing less heat as it struggles to function on an inadequate amount of calories.
What Are Its Other Symptoms?: Low energy; increased vulnerability to illness, including long-term problems like osteoporosis and vitamin deficiency.
Should I See A Doctor?: Yes. Since lots of health problems can lead you to become underweight — from having an overactive thyroid that sends your metabolism into overdrive, to disordered eating — the symptoms should be interpreted by a professional. Don't try to self-diagnose why you're so skinny — you may need more in-depth medical help than just eating a few pizzas in order to reach a healthy weight.
Why Does It Make You Cold?: Fatigue (due to lack of sleep or other issues) can make you less likely to engage in physical activities. And since using your muscles generates heat, being too exhausted to move can leave you feeling as frozen as a Great Lake in January. I know, insomniacs — one more thing to worry about when you're up at 3 a.m., right?
What Are Its Other Symptoms?: Fatigue can be caused by any number of medical problems, from anxiety to insomnia to heart disease, so it's tough to peg down a specific set of symptoms. But inability to sleep, or inability to feel rested after a full night's sleep, are big ones.
Should I See A Doctor?: For the love of God, yes. Unexplained fatigue can be the sign of some very serious health problems; and even if you know the source of your fatigue — whether it be work stress or chronic insomnia — a medical professional will have ideas about how to cope with it.
5. Poor Circulation
Why Does It Make You Cold?: When blood doesn't circulate properly throughout your body, you feel cold, especially in the parts of your body most likely to have the poorest circulation (i.e. hands and feet).
What Are Its Other Symptoms?: Tingling; numbness; muscle cramps.
Should I See A Doctor?: It depends. If your only symptom is coldness in your hands and feet, you may just be suffering from some of the above-mentioned estrogen-related circulation issues. But since poor circulation is often tied to other problems, like diabetes or obesity, if you find that your poor circulation is a new problem, or is accompanied by other new health problems, it can't hurt to check in with a medical professional.
6. Slow Metabolism
Why Does It Make You Cold?: Metabolism helps regulate the blood flow throughout your body. Folks with a fast metabolism experience increased blood flow, which keeps them warmer; conversely, people with slow metabolism have sludgier blood flow, which can lead to poor circulation, and an overall feeling of maximum chill.
What Are Its Other Symptoms?: Having a slow metabolism is often tied to hypothyroidism, so folks with a slow metabolism will often experience the same symptoms — like fatigue or depression.
Should I See A Doctor?: It depends. If you're experiencing other symptoms that lead you to believe that you might have a thyroid problem, then definitely talk to a doctor. But if you're living a kinda sedentary lifestyle and don't seem to have any symptoms of a thyroid disorder, you can try exercising more to up your metabolism, since people with more muscle mass tend to have a higher resting metabolism. And as an added bonus, it's really hard to be chilly when you're in the middle of a two mile jog.
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