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5 Surprising Ways the Thermostat May Be Affecting Your Health

By Bryn Huntpalmer ; Updated June 13, 2017

If you’re constantly arguing with your spouse or roommate about where the thermostat is set, whoever prefers the cooler settings may be in the right. As the cold season approaches, choosing not to run your heater could bode some surprising health benefits.

1. Sleeping in Cooler Temperatures Can Help You Lose Weight

Losing weight is a struggle for most people, so we’re all about small adjustments to make it easier. New research demonstrates that groups who slept in lower temperatures got a boost in “brown fat.” Brown fat is a beneficial type of fat that burns calories to make heat. Just two ounces of brown fat appear capable of burning several hundred calories per day — the equivalent of engaging in 30-minutes of exercise. Plus, in animal studies, brown fat has been shown to protect against diabetes and obesity.

As you age, you can typically expect to add 10 pounds of weight per decade. The boost of brown fat that you get from sleeping in cooler temperatures may help reverse this trend, helping you to maintain the body composition that you had as a younger adult.

2. Cooler Temperatures Can Reduce Respiratory Complications

Inhaling some fresh, cool air tastes delicious on your lungs, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s actually possible that cool air is easier to breathe. According to a study conducted in Brisbane, Australia, lower temperatures resulted in fewer respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions and a decrease in cardiovascular mortality between 1996 and 2001.

Additionally, for those who suffer from chronic respiratory issues, cooler indoor temperatures can lessen the effects of allergies. When the air-conditioning is running, the filters work to keep at bay all the mold, dander and other allergens that can create breathing problems. This is especially important for people who suffer from a chronic lung disease and have difficulty clearing their lungs of bacteria, dust and other pollutants in the air.

3. Prolonged Exposure to Heat Can Reduce Organ Function

With climate change upon us, scientists are urgently studying the effects of high heat on our bodies. With temperatures this summer reaching well above 100 degrees, Time Magazine warns that this is, “just a taste of future summers when heat waves will be stronger and more frequent.”

It’s important that you develop ways to manage the heat now, as prolonged exposure to high temperatures, without relief or cooling off, can take a toll on our organs, especially the kidneys. Even short term exposure can lead to heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heat stroke.

While heat-related illnesses can affect anyone, there are some who are at greater risk including children, senior citizens, people suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory problems and the economically disadvantaged who may not have regular access to air conditioning.

4. Keeping Your Home Cool at Night Can Result in a Better Night’s Sleep

How comfortable you feel in your home and your bedroom can have a definite impact on how well and how long you sleep. Over a 24-hour period, your body temperature naturally fluctuates. When you go to sleep, your body cools off.

Scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam determined that lower skin temperatures resulted in a better night’s sleep because the faster you can cool off your body, the more likely you are to induce deep sleep.

Additionally, since your body doesn’t have to work to keep your temperature low, your sleep will be less restless and more restorative. To achieve this, you’ll typically want to set your thermostat between 65 and 72 degrees thermostat.

Another benefit to sleeping in a cool room is that your body releases more melatonin, one of the best antiaging hormones — so you’ll feel and look better!

5. Extreme Temperatures Can Contribute to Heart Attacks

If your temperature rises too high, your body will shed heat in one of two ways, both of which stress the heart.

The first method is radiation, where heat naturally moves from warmer areas to cooler ones. For example, if the air around your body is cool, you’ll radiate heat to the air, which is ideal. If the air temperature is closer to your body temperature, the radiation process will reroute blood so more of it goes to the skin. This makes your heart beat faster and pump harder.

On a hot day, your heart may circulate two to four times as much blood each minute as it does on a cool day.

The other way the body sheds heat is through evaporation from the skin, or sweating. Sweating is good for you because it helps whisk away heat. On a dry day, the evaporation of just a teaspoon of sweat could cool your entire bloodstream by 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

But when the humidity is higher than 75 percent there’s so much water vapor in the air that it makes evaporation nearly impossible. This extreme sweating strains the cardiovascular system because it pulls sodium, potassium and other minerals needed for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions and water balance. So on especially humid days, stay hydrated and try to spend time indoors.

Additionally, if you take certain medications your body may have a more exaggerated reaction to the heat. By no means should you stop taking your medications, but you may want to consult with your doctor about extra precautions you can take — like ready access to shade or avoiding being outdoors during peak sunny, hot hours — to minimize the impact of warm weather on your heart.

On the flip side, it is also important to note that extreme cold can cause vasoconstriction, a narrowing of blood vessels, which can exacerbate heart conditions and even lead to heart attack. So when it comes to your heart health, staying in a moderate temperature range is key.

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