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Continued: Fat helps us acclimate to the cold

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 23, 2014 - 12:02 AM

“It’s a fatiguing thing,” said Fleming. “That’s why even people who live in tropical climates have adopted the siesta.”

All together now: It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.

Common sense also figures in on how we deal with the cold.

In 2006, a researcher at the University of Oulu in Finland studied how humans adapt in northern climes, suggesting that success is not only physiological, but behavioral. In other words, we know how to dress for the cold.

‘Zip it!’

“In this study the geographical differences in the use of hats, gloves and scarves were associated with cold-related mortality,” Tiina Mäkinen wrote. “Overall, mortality has been shown to increase to a greater extent with a given fall in temperatures … among people wearing fewer clothes.”

In layman’s nagging: “Zip up your jacket!”

This being the coldest winter here in 30 years, it’s worth noting that some age groups really do struggle with the cold. The very young need help regulating their temperatures, which is why we bundle up our babies and youngsters. Older people also gradually become more vulnerable to temperature extremes.

“For the big middle — from teens to 70s — acclimation is pretty easy,” Fleming said. “But we need to monitor those at the extremes.”

He added that one thing that stymies everyone who lives in frigid climates is hand dexterity. It doesn’t adjust with the temperature because a cold body restricts the flow of blood to extremities, keeping it near the heart. Less blood means more fumble fingers.

So that set of keys you dropped in the snow where they disappeared from sight, and seemingly off the face of the Earth?

Could happen to anyone.


Kim Ode • 612-673-7185


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