Cold feet: What you need to know

Cold feet can be caused by cold weather: Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Cold weather is the typical reason for cold feet. Your extremities become literal icicles by constricting small blood vessels under the surface of the skin, thus helping the body to maintain its internal temperature. That’s why your body will still be warm when your hands and toes are already freezing. If you are healthy, a blanket and a cup of tea might be sufficient to get rid of your icy toes. If you are chronically ill, it might be more difficult to warm up – and even dangerous.Cold extremities could lead to frostbite and even amputation. In severely frigid weather, frostbite can happen in just five minutes. (Before you will notice frostnip: red and sore hands or feet which hurt from the cold) Circulation needs to be re-established quickly, hands and feet have to be re-warmed. Still, you should try to prevent getting cold feet, if they bother you often.

Cold feet and circulation problems – look at the cause: When less blood is being pumped in your feet, they will eventually turn cold. Yet poor circulation isn’t a condition itself. It is a result of other health issues. One of its many symptoms are icy extremities. It is more important though to look at the causes for blood circulation. You know, don’t just remove the symptom; remove the cause.  If you do not suffer from a chronic disease and still don’t know why your blood circulation is unusually sluggish, your lifestyle might be the reason. Physical inactivity as a whole and work-related inactivity (sitting in front of the computer for hours) might be a cause, so get out and get active. If you are a smoker, quit smoking. (Maybe not the first time you are being told). And yes – it is true, eating too much junk food can also lead to problems with your circulatory system.

Chronic disease and cold feet often go hand in hand: Or should I say foot in foot? For some people, wearing warm socks is enough to put an end to the problem. Unfortunately, for many people this is not the case. Weather conditions affect them, though they seem to be “cold from within”. And they don’t warm up quickly. Some cardiovascular concerns, diabetes and other health issues might cause cold feet. A few of those potential health problems can be quite serious. There are Reynaud’s phenomenon, Buergers disease as well as the peripheral vascular disease which are directly linked to having cold feet all the time. Anemia, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, or nerve damage are other health issues leading to chilly extremities. (And they come along with a lot of chronic diseases)

Women are more likely to suffer from cold feet: Men have always known. As it is their body heat which is needed by their wives most of the times. One of the theories why women’s extremities get cold more often than men’s is that they need to preserve warmth at the core where the heart and uterus are. And their body mechanisms will do everything to protect a potential fetus in the trunk. The female physique consist of more evenly distributed fat layers which provide internal insulation, but in comparison with men, they lack heat generating muscle mass. Women have thinner skin (about 25 percent thinner than men) – physically as well as emotionally. Both can lead to being easily affected by the cold. Menopause is a difficult transition period which provokes many changes in the female body. One of the obstacles nearly all menopausal women have to deal with are cold extremities, as decreasing hormone levels cause slack circulation.

Cold feet and fear: Cold feet can be a typical symptom for people thinking about getting married. Just kidding. However, it is true that fear can be linked to icy extremities. Anxiety is a comprehensive condition and cold feet are not its only symptom. Still, hyperventilation would be typical for people in emotionally challenging situations. And hyperventilation causes blood vessels to constrict. This slows down the blood flow significantly. Nervous sweating is something that might lead to chilly extremities, too. Originally sweating is designed to cool the body down. It would help you to overheat when running away from potential dangers like lions or bears. But what if you sweat because you are afraid of something less tangible (like dealing with your chronic disease or because you are menopausal?  You are automatically cooling down without ever running away in a physical sense.

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