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Bitter Cold Weather Poses Greater Threat For Thinner People, Research Shows

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Everything from heart trouble to frostbite and hypothermia are among the potential issues that can come from being outside in the bitter cold. New research shows how much you weigh can also be a factor.

Even if you're bundled up, it's kind of a crazy cold that's hard to fight.

"It's freezing, my face actually hurts a little bit from the wind and how cold it is," said Natasia Belova of Philadelphia.

Doctors say it can be dangerous for anyone to be outside for a long time in the frigid weather, even if your hood is up and you stay covered up.

"I have on double socks and double pants braving through the cold," said Sydney Yablon of Philadelphia.

Cold is especially dangerous for the elderly, children, those who are sick and skinny people.

"If you have less fat, you have less insulation and you can have too much cold inside the heart, liver, kidney, internal organs and then they become dysfunctional," said Jagish Khubchandani, a community health professor at Ball State University.

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Research from Ball State University has documented how cold weather impacts people.

It says people with a body fat range of 15 to 20 percent or lower could experience potential harmful side effects from frigid temperatures.

"People breathe faster, they have a high heart rate, they get confused, their reflexes are slow, they become weak," said Khubchandani.

The study has focused on men and women between the ages of 18 and 25, where thin people in cold weather face another threat with drinking.

"This is also a group that goes out to party and they rely on alcohol, other drugs and you see they get a false sense of being OK because alcohol makes you feel warm but actually it makes you lose body heat, especially when you are thinner and thinner," said Khubchandani.

The study says white women, especially those who are athletic or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, are at the greatest risk of cold weather illness.

Doctors say dangers of cold weather usually come with prolonged exposure.

Eyewitness News checked with a few hospitals around the area, and so far, fortunately, no reports of patients with weather-related issues.

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