As the cold weather continues to batter Britain, health experts have revealed what occurs inside your body when the temperature drops. In this blog, we’ll discuss the effects of cold weather on the human body, highlighting the exact temperature where the lungs, heart, and brain feel the strong impact.
How does cold weather affect the body?
Professor Damian Bailey, who experimented to demonstrate what happens in the human body at 10 degrees Celsius, claims that the temperature poses a “real physiological challenge” despite sounding quite modest.
“Ten degrees is the average temperature that people will be living in if they can’t afford to heat their homes,” Prof Bailey explained.
In the experiment, Prof Bailey hooks up a large tube to the subject through which they inhale, as they sit in a room with fans and a cool breeze.
According to Professor Bailey, our brains are “tasting blood” as the temperature drops.
“It’s tasting the temperature, and the brain is now sending signals to the rest of your body. At first, your body responds with minor adjustments.”
Sweating ceases, and the hairs on your body start to stand up to give insulation. Prof Bailey adds that it is at 18 degrees Celsius that our bodies begin to “defend” our core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius.
Following that, the blood arteries vasoconstrict, meaning they close off to keep the warm blood available for the important organs. This is why your fingers and toes may become particularly cold. Your body will then begin to shiver to generate heat.
According to Dr Clare Eglin of the University of Portsmouth, this process occurs faster in women than in males because their greater oestrogen levels cause their blood vessels to tighten. In practise, this means that women are more sensitive to cold than men.
One component that people are less aware of is the effect that a shift in blood flow to the brain can have on our brain function.
According to BBC Health and Science correspondent James Gallagher, once the trial approached lower temperatures, he struggled to complete a form sorting game.
“You’re delivering less blood to the brain, so there’s less oxygen and less glucose [sugar] getting into the brain and the downside of that is it’s hurting your mental gymnastics,” says Dr. Bailey.
“But, ultimately, your body’s goal is to maintain your core temperature warm, and this is all part of that.”
Blood pressure normally rises as your heart beats faster to circulate warm blood throughout your body, increasing your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. As a result, both are significantly more common in the winter.
The cold promotes the growth of viruses such as flu during the winter months, partially because we are more likely to meet indoors with the windows closed and no fresh air blowing germs away.
Another reason is that viruses live outside the body better in cold weather because cold air contains less virus-trapping moisture. Viruses can travel further when the air is dry.
How do we keep our body warm naturally?
To keep your body warm naturally, you can begin with thermal layers near to your skin. You can also go on to wool or fleece materials. Wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves also helps to cover areas where heat is frequently lost. Layering traps warmth near your body which forms a barrier against the cold.
Another way to keep your body warm during the heat is regular physical activity. Exercise raises your metabolic rate, which promotes heat generation. Walking, stretching, or even performing housework can all assist in boosting your core body temperature!
For your homes, ensure that windows and doors are well sealed. Concentrate your activities in smaller, well-insulated places and leave curtains open during the day to allow sunshine in. These environmental changes, together with wise clothing choices and physical activity can keep your body warm, even without relying on heating systems or heat pumps.
Your meals can also affect your body heat. Carbohydrate-rich diets provide a consistent source of energy which adds to greater heat generation. Warm liquids, such as herbal teas, coffee, or hot chocolate, not only provide comfort but also add to an internal warming sensation.