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11/25/2015 07:15 am ET

7 Surefire Ways To Warm Up Cold Hands

When your hands and feet feel frozen, try these tips to get warm.
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If you feel like your hands and feet are always icy, it's probably due to poor circulation. Reasons for poor circulation range from a typical sign of aging, to more serious conditions like problems with your blood vessels, your thyroid, neuropathy (nerve damage), or iron deficiency. When circulation is impaired, blood flow is reduced in certain areas in the body, especially the hands and feet, since they are farther away from the heart. The body restricts blood flow to keep your core warm, leading to cold hands and feet. 

See your doctor if you have cold sensations, plus any of the following symptoms:
  • Pain in the legs while walking: This could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which causes plaque to build up in the arteries that carry blood around your body. PAD is associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, so it is important to get diagnosed and treated early. 
  • You feel cold, but when touched by others, your temperature feels normal: This is a possible sign of neuropathy, or nerve damage. This can result from diabetes or if you’ve had a stroke, or other causes, says Elizabeth Ratchford, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Vascular Medicine.
  • Color changes in your fingers: If your fingers and toes feel cold and turn white or blue and then red and tingle or throb, it might be due to Raynaud’s disease, which is caused by spasms of the blood vessels. People with Raynaud’s experience an exaggerated response to cold, says Dr. Ratchford—their blood vessels constrict to conserve body temperature, but clamp down very hard and take longer to relax, causing the color changes and tingles. 
If you have a clean bill of health but still can’t shake the cold, read on for more tips to warm up those chilly digits.

#1: Avoid caffeine

Reduce your intake of foods and drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate. Caffeine constricts the blood vessels and can trigger a flare up of Raynaud’s disease if you have it, says Dr. Ratchford. Try decaf drinks or hot water with lemon and ginger to warm up. Holding on to a warm cup will help, too!
 

#2: Keep your core and head warm

You’ve heard the age-old advice to wear a hat to keep warm because you lose heat through your head. Turns out, it's true—you do lose a lot of body heat through your head, Dr. Ratchford says. Wear a hat when you're outdoors or somewhere chilly, and dress warmly in layers, particularly around your core, to keep more blood in your fingers and toes.
 

#3: Exercise regularly

Exercising will not only make you warm in the moment, but regular physical activity will also help you stay warm long-term. Besides keeping you healthy, regular exercise improves circulation and gets blood flowing throughout your body, prevents the progression of plaque buildup (which can lead to diseases like PAD), and reduces stress, which can constrict the blood vessels. “It’s very important to get 30 minutes of brisk exercise a day,” Dr. Ratchford says.
 

#4: Don’t smoke

You already know the negative health effects of smoking, but did you know it could add to your chronic cold feelings? Nicotine constricts blood vessels, says Dr. Ratchford, and it disrupts their functions. Beyond leading to chilly hands and feet, smoking increases your risk of PAD and atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by plaque buildup in the arteries, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
 

#5: Don’t wear tight clothing or shoes

To combat cold, avoid wearing tight, constrictive clothing, shoes, and socks, says Dr. Ratchford. The tightness around your hands or feet can actually contribute to the constriction of your blood vessels, leading blood away from fingers and toes.
 

#6: Use heat packs

Take a page from the books of skiers and cold-weather runners and use hand warmer packs to prevent glacial hands and toes. These disposable packets produce heat when opened and can last for hours. You can use them inside gloves and socks, and larger packs can even be placed inside jacket pockets for extra warmth. Hand warmers are available for purchase at most drug stores and on Amazon.com.
 

#7: Take deep breaths

Research conducted on Tibetan monks found that they were able to raise the temperatures in their fingers and toes through deep meditation. While you might not be as practiced as a Tibetan monk, try deep-breathing when you're feeling cold. Discomfort might be causing you to feel stressed, and meditation and deep breathing will help, according to some studies
 
Read more from Grandparents.com:

7 Medical Conditions That Affect More Women Than Men

The Best Way to Get Rid of Foot & Leg Cramps

5 Warning Signs of Serious Eye Problems

 

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