When you get older, you get colder

The media relations staff at Johns Hopkins hooked me up with Neal Fedarko, a professor of geriatric medicine and gerontology at the medical school.

Simple question: Do we get colder as we get older?

"As we get older, we are certainly more sensitive to the cold," Fedarko said.

Next question: Why?

"Our ability to perceive, respond and regulate body temperature involves nerves, blood vessel dilation or constriction, and shifting blood flow between body core and extremities. When it is cold, we normally shiver, generating some heat, and constrict blood vessels in our skin.

"With increasing age, nerves require a greater stimuli to respond, and the rate and magnitude of the signals sent decreases. Thus, it takes a greater threshold to provoke a response and the response itself is diminished.

"An older individual may be less likely to have a robust automatic response to cold temperatures, such that their body temperature is not maintained in the optimal, comfortable range."

That's me, doc.

Thirty-seven years away from New England, spoiled by several mild Maryland winters, I find myself unable to have a robust automatic response to cold temperatures — and I never thought this day would come.

But that's life, right? It doesn't matter where you grew up, baby. You get older, you get colder.


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