Q: Why is it that when I'm outside with friends in the winter, it seems I always feel colder than everyone else, even when I am dressed just as warmly?—Carmela V., Syracuse, New York
A: Different people's bodies develop different cold tolerances. Your chilliness boils down to how well your body produces and retains heat.
When you're in the cold, the network of blood vessels close to your skin's surface retreats inward so you don't lose heat. But you end up with cold fingers and toes. Some folks' blood vessels make a deeper retreat (that may be you).
The body does try to help out by making you shiver: When muscles contract and release, they create heat and (hopefully) warm you up. But how much heat you lose—and how warm you stay—depends on lots of factors:
Body fat: The more fat right under the skin, the more insulated your body is and the less heat you give off.
Height: Generally speaking, the taller you are, more skin area your body has. That means more opportunity for heat to escape.
Age: Older bodies are less able to regulate temperature and are more cold-sensitive.
Sex: Vasoconstriction, that retreat of the blood vessels and resulting cold fingers and toes, happens more to women. Fluctuations in menstrual hormones also can make women more sensitive to cold at certain times of the month.
Underlying conditions: It's possible that hypercoldness may indicate an undiagnosed disorder such as Raynaud's phenomenon or an autoimmune condition such as Sjogren's or Hashimoto's (low thyroid).
So what can you do? If you're concerned, talk to your doctor. Try building up your tolerance. There's evidence that exposing yourself to the cold for 20 minutes a day and avoiding prolonged stays in warm rooms is effective.
Other research shows that exercising regularly boosts your resting metabolic rate, so your body produces more heat. First step: getting 10,000 steps daily and having two to three weekly sessions of strength building (more muscles, more warmth). Still chilly while outside? Run in place, or do 20 jumps.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.