Professional Opinion: Does moving to a warmer climate make your blood thin so you can't take the cold anymore?

loberle@islandpacket.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Dr. Robert Vyge of Beaufort Memorial Hospital's Lady's Island Internal Medicine.



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This week, Dr. Robert Vyge, a board-certified internist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital Lady's Island Internal Medicine, talks about the notion of feeling colder because you've developed "thin blood."

Perfect timing for the winter weather watch that the National Weather Service issued for Beaufort County on Jan. 28 and 29.

Question. Living in the South, we often hear people refer to having "thin blood," saying they get cold easily. Does blood actually get "thinner" when someone moves -- and acclimates themselves -- to a warmer climate and does that make them more sensitive to chilly weather than when they lived up North? Does taking a "blood thinner" make a person feel colder?

Answer. No, the concept of developing "thinner blood " by moving from a colder Northern climate to a warmer Southern climate is only a myth. People may often feel colder at times after moving to the South from the North, but this is not the result of their blood getting thinner. I suspect it has to do with a person's tolerance to the cold weather changing, or perhaps to a loss of some "insulating" fat that may disappear after living in a warmer climate.

The term "blood thinners" has to do with medicines that help prevent blood from clotting. These include aspirin, which works as an anti-platelet agent; warfarin, which works as an anticoagulant; as well as some newer anticoagulants (dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban). Taking a blood thinner should not normally make a person feel colder, and if it did, one should contact their doctor, as this could indicate anemia, potentially from bleeding.

One more concept of blood "thickness" may have to do with an area's altitude. Living at a high altitude will promote the body to make more red blood cells (to help carry oxygen) and hence "thicken" the blood, while moving to a lower altitude, such as coastal Carolina, could then "thin" the blood. But again, the perception of feeling cold doesn't have to do with the thinness of the blood.

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