Do Warm Climates Really Thin Your Blood?

portland maine storm sky 2
photo by me

This is my third winter away from New England and my second one here in lovely Venice, California.  I’m proud to say I’ve braved dozens of brutally cold New England winters.  I’ve never considered myself a “cold baby.”

After spending almost two years here, though, I am officially a “cold baby.”  When it drops into the low 50s here at night, I notice it.  I feel cold.  I don’t like it.  I whine like an old lady.  I want to bring a jacket or turn on the heat a little bit in the car.  I never would have done this just a couple years ago.  As a Maine schoolkid, I would have laughed at the notion that I’d ever feel cold at such temps.  I recently reminisced with a friend about the miles we would walk as kids in brutally cold weather (because we had no other option.)  It really had to be arctic for us to feel uncomfortably cold.

A few people have responded to my recent whining with remarks such as, “living in warmer climates thins your blood.”

So I got to thinking – is climate acclimation a psychological process or is there a physiological component to it as well?  Is the “blood thinning” thing an old wives’ tale, or is there really something to it? (I’m not knocking old wives’ tales here – some certainly turn out to be true, such as my grandma’s eat your colors rule)

And here’s what I learned: no, it doesn’t thin your blood.  Recently, Doctor Ashok Kumar told Mary Ann Roser at the Austin Statesman that: “the blood viscosity, the technical term for the thickness, doesn’t change” and goes on to suggest that the myth might have started because high altitude can thicken your blood.

I don’t think this necessarily obviates that there may be other physiological changes, but it sounds like the simple answer is: you just get used to it (or unused to it.)  I certainly have acclimated.  It happens fast, I guess.

Venice Fire

Spoke a little too soon. I was getting ready for bed when I heard a strange noise – sounded sort of like the dryer was on or something. I looked outside and saw a large conflagration a couple blocks away. I could see towers of flame well above the houses between us. I grabbed my camera (wrong lens for the occasion, but I was in a hurry) and jumped on my bike to get a closer look. I found a patch of brush, palm trees, and a garage or small home totally involved. Power lines and a transformer fuzzed and sparked and fell to the ground. The fire was high and hot and it moved quickly. I shot these pictures. I was worried the fire would spread quickly because the palm trees – some probably fifty feet high – were fully engulfed and spraying embers all over the area. A man jumped from the flames. A couple concerned residents were out with their garden hoses, doing what they could. The fire department was on scene within a few minutes and brought it under control very quickly. Thanks, dudes.