It’s one of those age-old clichés: while women are struggling with the cold and cranking up the thermostat (secretly, of course), men are shedding layers, loudly complaining they’re too hot.
But can it really be as simple as a difference of opinion?
Experts believe not. It’s reported there are palpable differences between the sexes when it comes to the way their circulatory system functions, which, in turn, will cause each to perceive temperatures differently.
So before the gender battle rages on for a minute longer, settle your duvet-on/duvet-off squabbles with the science behind the thinking…
Keeping the heat in
The theory that women tend to have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio than men explains why men naturally generate more body heat; while women, with a smaller body size and lower metabolic rate, suffer adversely from a drop in temperature.
The average woman has an even distribution of fat beneath the skin surface, with 20-25% body fat, whereas the average man has a far thinner layer, with a body fat measure of approximately 15%.
The variance in warmth has a lot to do with our blood vessels, which, in the case of women, are much narrower and therefore restrictive when it comes to giving off heat.
So if one of the main functions of blood is to keep the body warm when it’s cold (that’s why people tell you to move and keep the blood pumping when you’re stood still), men benefit from it rushing to their skin surface, while women don’t, as more blood is directed to their core in order to conserve and protect the vital organs.
It’s this core temperature of 37 degrees that handily keeps the foetus warm during pregnancy.
Cold hands, warm heart
If you’re wondering why women’s hands and feet tend take the brunt of the chill, in comparison to men’s toasty mitts, researchers have found that a woman’s hand temperature is, on average, 2.8 degrees lower.
Science has it that the blood flow to such body parts can change at speed to either lose or safeguard heat, yet a woman will constrict blood flow to both before a man will. And with the warmer core, it gives meaning to the old adage ‘cold hands, warm heart’.
One ailment to look out for with this in mind is Raynaud’s Disease, which is defined by a loss of blood flow to the hands, feet, nose and ears.
While it affects an estimated 10 million people, it’s reported that women are more likely to suffer as female hormones reportedly play a role in the condition and can therefore obstruct circulation.
End the cycle
Experts also state a women’s menstrual cycle can have a significant bearing on her body temperature. In the run up to a bleed, iron is at its lowest level and the oestrogen output fluctuates, which in turn causes a drop in the number of red blood cells and subsequently a loss of body heat.
At the other end of the spectrum, ladies of a menopausal age will face their own circulatory challenges in the way of the classic hot flush.
This iconic symptom is proven to be caused by the slump in oestrogen before and after ‘the change’.
Whilst this is unavoidable, researchers advise a healthy lifestyle – no smoking, a better diet and more exercise – beforehand may go some way to improve circulation, stave the chills and go some way towards bridging the gap.
Do you and your partner suffer the same fate? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.