Why Do We Fill Colder at Older Ages?

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According to the National Institute of Aging, people of older age lose heat faster than the younger people.

Dr. Kevin Most, Chief Medical Officer at Northwestern Medicine’s Central DuPage Hospital, told WGN Radio’s Bob Sirott (via the Hill), some of the reasons were:

  • “As we age, our skin is a lot thinner, so it loses heat a lot easier. We also have less fat and muscle mass the older we get.
  • “So that senior who’s wearing the sweater, there’s reasons for it. As you age, know that [feeling colder is] a normal part of aging.
  • “As much as you can, try to keep your muscle mass up, because we know that as we use muscles, that generates heat, and again, it’ll keep us warm. He recommends light weightlifting and walking and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

People start feeling such changes around their 70s and 80s, even earlier in some cases.

You know the stereotypes: the grandparents’ house that’s 85 degrees in July or the uncle who wears sandals in January. Turns out, these behaviors are rooted in science.

Cleveland Clinic

The Cleveland clinic geriatric medicine specialist Ken Koncilja, MD, says “As we age, our body distribution changes — including our body fat percentage, muscle mass, skin and sweat glands. These changes can affect our body’s thermal regulation. As a result, we may not recognize temperature swings as well. Our core body temperature may even change.”

If younger people start feeling colder, that could be a sign of some medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, head and neck cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and nutritional disorders.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends the following to reduce body temperatures, as we age:

  • Stay hydrated: “As we age, our thirst reflex diminishes, too. That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of liquids, no matter the weather.
  • Watch the weather: “When the heat index is above a certain number, local health departments will issue warnings for older adults and small children. It’s important to have access to shade. And know where to go in a heat wave if you don’t have air conditioning, such as a gym, school, church or another resource in your city or county,” says Dr. Koncilja.
  • Build muscle: “You can build muscle at any age. Use resistance training as training for your everyday life. It makes a difference for body temperature regulation (thermoregulation).”
  • Dress for success: “Frostbite is common in older adults, and it can happen quickly. Footwear matters. Get warm socks and good quality, warm boots or shoes,” adds Dr. Koncilja.

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