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Your ice-cold hands have freaked people out on more than one occasion, and your toes are always freezing (as your S.O. is unceremoniously reminded when you crawl into bed). You might have blamed it on poor circulation, but it’s actually more nuanced than that.

Dr. Chirag Chauhan, interventional cardiologist and biodesign fellow at Stanford University, explains that cold hands usually aren’t an indicator of poor circulation, but microcirculation (aka the blood flow to your capillaries). When your hands and feet get cold, it’s likely because your tiny blood vessels are constricting. It’s usually harmless, but it could be symptom of something more serious, so it’s worth checking with your doc.

So now that you know a little more about the science behind your perpetually cold hands (and that most likely, your heart and arteries are pumping just fine), here are six ways to ward off those icy fingers and toes.

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circulation 1

Move Around More

Prolonged periods of sitting, especially in a cold room, aren’t doing you any favors. And regular exercise is always a plus (though you may want to opt for an indoor spin class over a jog in 30-degree weather).

circulation 2

Wear the Right Clothes

You may find you need more layers than other people, and that’s OK. Sure, you may feel a little silly wearing gloves when everyone else is in jean jackets, but if it means not having to defrost your hands later, it’s worth it. Pay extra attention to your feet: Too-tight shoes can restrict blood flow even more.


Minimize Abrupt Temperature Changes

Even though winter is over, going from hot to cold can trigger an attack—even walking out of 90-degree weather into aggressive air-conditioning. Obviously you won’t be able to avoid it entirely, but soften the blow by having a sweater (with pockets) ready to go when needed. Also: Wear gloves if you need to grab something out of the freezer.

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Don’t Smoke

If there’s one thing that has a direct negative impact on blood flow, it’s smoking—not only in terms of microcirculation but also much more serious complications. So keep that in mind if you need another incentive to quit. (And FYI, secondhand smoke is just as bad.)

circulation 5

Warm Up Quickly

If you notice your fingers going white, the best thing to do is stop the attack in its tracks. Run your hands under warm (not hot) water or, if that’s not an immediate option, put them in a warm place like under your arms (yep, Molly Shannon-style).

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NKS_Imagery/Getty Images

Get a Massage

While studies are still in the early stages, there have been some positive results associated with getting a rubdown. So yeah, better schedule that shiatsu session. You know, for your health.

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