Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Why do I always feel so cold?

Q. My husband is always warm, and I'm always cold, no matter what the time of year. Are women just naturally colder than men, or could there be something wrong with me?

A. What you're describing may be perfectly normal. The reason you're cold has to do with our bodies' self-preservation mechanisms. Whenever the temperature drops, tiny blood vessels called capillaries under the skin constrict, diverting blood away from our hands and feet to our vital organs—including our heart and lungs—where it's needed most. In women, this process occurs faster than in men, which is one reason why we feel colder than them. This is especially true as we age, because our basal metabolic rate slows, so we burn fewer calories and generate less heat. We also lose the subcutaneous fat under our skin, which means we have a little less insulation from the cold.

That said, certain medical conditions can also make you feel chillier. One is hypothyroidism—a slowing of the thyroid gland's production of hormones that help regulate body heat. Hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men. If the cold is centered in your fingers, toes, ears, and nose and your extremities turn white—and then blue or red—in the cold, you might have Raynaud's disease. This condition is also more prevalent in women, and it often accompanies an autoimmune disease such as lupus.

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