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So Why Are Your Feet So Cold?

Our circulatory system is a wondrous part of our bodies, but it can also be a very troubling and threatening part when all is not going well. The health problems that affect our legs and feet can be painful, activity limiting, and may lead to serious health issues.

For some health problems, particularly those associated with the veins in our legs through which our blood flows back to our heart and lungs, the underlying cause of the problems may be difficult or impossible to reverse. If your veins have lost their elasticity or the valves within the veins are malfunctioning, it may be a permanent condition. That's why health aids, such as high quality compression and support hose, are important as a means of offering relief and treatment.

But some other leg and foot problems can be dealt with in a manner that can either minimize the problem, or actually make it go away. While many such problems require medical treatment, there are also some conditions over which you have a great deal of control. Cold feet is one such problem where you may be able to help yourself.

While having cold feet may not seem a very serious problem, it can be annoying, sometime embarrassing, or painful for those troubled by the condition. More importantly, it can be an indication of a real health problem.

The reason for cold feet is a very simple one – there isn't a sufficient supply of warm blood flowing through your toes and feet. There can be, however, several causes for such a problem.

Medical Conditions Related To Cold Feet

Raynaud's Disease — this is a not uncommon disorder in which the person's hands and feet get very cold and even numb. It usually afflicts young women between the ages of twenty and forty, happens only occasionally and comes as an attack that occurs without warning and that may just as suddenly end. Winter is usually the time of the year when such attacks will happen.

The disease itself is not a serious health threat, but it is worth checking with your doctor about since there are other, more serious conditions, which may mirror these symptoms. Usually wearing warmer clothing can help lessen or minimize the attacks. It is also very important to avoid smoking which can help bring on these attacks. See below for more information on the role of cigarettes in circulatory problems.

Raynaud's Syndrome — this is another disorder which is brought on by cold temperatures and which strikes as a sudden attack. It comes from the inability of the arteries to dilate and send more blood to where it is supposed to go.

This illness, while similar to Raynaud's Disease in its effects, can be more serious in that it is usually linked to underlying health problems, such as collagen diseases, lead or nicotine toxicity, or some form of neuro-vascular trauma. Your physician can offer advice on how to treat the problem, which in some severe cases might even include surgery as a treatment of last resort.

Thromboangiitis obliterans — this syndrome is more commonly known as Buerger's Disease. It usually affects young men under the age of forty. Smoking is the direct cause of this illness, which can be quite serious. With it, the small arteries in the legs and feet constrict and don't let the proper amount of blood pass through. In this disease, that lack of blood flow causes muscle pain cramps and pain, and can lead to tissue becoming ulcerous and even gangrenous. Not smoking and avoiding those who do smoke is an important step in dealing with this illness, but it is also essential to seek medical treatment.

Cold Feet And Your Emotions

It might surprise you to know that your nervous system has an effect on the blood flow in your body. When your nervous system helps to shut down some of that blood flow, the result can be a reduction in the temperature of your extremities, such as your legs and feet.

When something has disturbed you or left you under a considerable amount of stress, your body's nerves may constrict the small arterioles in your feet. This limits their ability to carry blood and results in you having cold feet.

Most of us have also experienced the opposite of this, when we get excited or angry and our nervous system deals with the excess pressure by expanding the arterioles and sending excess blood pumping through. The medical name for this is vasodilation and it can leave you feeling hot all over.

Things You Can Control To Help Prevent Cold Feet

Although virtually everyone is aware of the heart disease and cancer risk issues related to cigarette smoking, most people are not aware that smoking tobacco is also a major cause of cold feet. Even when there is no illness or other complicating condition, the simple act of smoking a cigarette can significantly lower the temperature of your feet.

The reason for this is that nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that causes your blood vessels to tighten up or constrict, thus lessening the amount of blood that can flow through them. While nicotine affects your entire nervous system, the places you most easily notice the effect is in your hands and feet. When the nicotine causes the arterioles in your feet to constrict there is a reduced flow of warm blood and your feet become colder.

The effect can be surprisingly large and long-lasting. Studies have found that inhaling just one cigarette can reduce the blood flow to your feet by as much as 50%, and that the blood flow may not return to normal for an hour after that single cigarette. For even a moderate smoker, that can mean cold feet is an ongoing condition as the nicotine of each new cigarette once again acts to limit the blood flow in your feet.

Stopping smoking is therefore an important step, both to avoid all the serious health risks that come with tobacco usage, and to increase the blood flow to your feet.

Exercise is another effective way to get warmer feet. Regular exercise that improves the condition of your legs and feet also improves the circulation in your legs and feet. Simply taking a walk each day can be an easy way to improve your overall health and to warm up those chilly feet.

If you suffer from cold feet on either a regular or periodic basis, talk to your physician to make sure it is not a serious, health-threatening condition. If you are a smoker, or someone getting very little exercise (or, even worse, both), then start now on changing that. A non-smoking, more active you will also probably end up being a much healthier you with much warmer feet.

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