Ask the doctor
What can you do if you constantly feel cold?
Q. All winter my mother complained about feeling cold, even though the heat was turned up and she was wearing plenty of warm clothing. Now that summer is here she is still complaining of feeling cold. Her doctor did lab work and everything was normal. Why is she always so cold?
A. Three common age-related changes can cause older adults to feel cold, despite warm clothing and warm air temperature. One is the loss of the insulating layer of fat beneath our skin. Another is a slowing of our metabolism. Our bodies just don’t burn as many calories and generate as much heat as we get older. And the third is a loss of muscle mass. Our muscles are big heat generators, because they use calories to do work.
There isn’t anything you can do about the first two causes, but exercise that increases muscle mass can help reduce the effect of the third change. Getting your mother involved in an exercise class might be the best way to help her feel warmer.
— Anne Fabiny, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch