Should You Be Worried about Cold Hands and Feet?

Using heater at home in winter. Woman warming her hands sitting by device and wearing warm clothes. Heating season.

My wife’s hands are always cold. Even in the middle of the summer when we’re walking down the street and she slips her hand into mine, it takes a second to adjust. It’s like someone snuck an ice cube in there.


Thankfully, she’s not too concerned (and neither is her doctor). For her, it’s not indicative of any major problems. She’s got a healthy heart, good circulation, and there is nothing to worry about. It’s possible she has Reynaud’s disease, a harmless condition that causes blood vessel constriction in the fingers and toes, but it’s no cause for concern.

But that’s not the case for everybody, especially if you’re over 50 and particularly if you’re 70+. Cold hands and feet in advanced age can signal peripheral artery disease (PAD), which can signify a more severe condition.

PAD occurs when arteries become narrowed or blocked by plaque formations along the interior walls. This form of atherosclerosis affects the extremities and is usually accompanied by other symptoms. Symptoms signaling PAD include:

  • Cold feet
  • Leg cramping
  • Hair loss on shins
  • Changes in nail color/texture

For some, however, cold hands and feet might just be who you are and create no cause for concern. You know your body best, and if other symptoms arise, it may be worth checking out. PAD, for example, can be a sign of coronary artery disease, type-2 diabetes, and more.

If cold feet and hands are of no concern but bother you, all you can really do is take steps to warm up. Some things you can do include:

  • Wearing appropriate footwear and mittens: Thermal socks, layered socks, warm boots, etc. Also, mittens do a better job of keeping hands warmer than gloves.
  • Consider core temperature: Keeping your core temperature warm can also encourage warmer extremities. Quite simply, bundle up with removable layers like sweatshirts, sweaters, and jackets.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine: Both of these substances encourage vasoconstriction, which can promote cold extremities.

If you’re worried that your cold hands and feet signify circulatory issues, be on the lookout for further symptoms. If extremities are new to you, a doctor’s visit is recommended. But if it’s been something you’ve always had and have no further symptoms, it’s unlikely to be a result of high cholesterol or any other dangerous condition.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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