Thyroid and Heart Disease

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Dr. Kathy Maupin and Brett Newcomb discuss the function of the thyroid and it’s effect on the heart. They discuss heart disease and other thyroid-related complications, along with their symptoms, and treatment options.

This week, Brett Newcomb and I are talking about the thyroid and heart disease, as well as other gland issues that can contribute to the development of heart disease. Common wisdom in this country seems to be that everyone fears an overactive thyroid (called “hyperthyroidism”) because it can lead to arrhythmias and heart attacks. While it is true that such a thing can happen if left untreated, it is much more common and less well known that an under-active (hypothyroidism) thyroid can lead to heart problems.

The thyroid is a critical part of the body’s maintenance and operational systems. It is the thermostat of the body, among other things. It stimulates and strengthens the muscles, particularly the heart muscle. When it is underperforming, you begin to show symptoms such as hair loss, eyebrow loss, weight gain, slowed heart rate, higher or lower blood pressure, and feeling cold. You also get swelling in your feet and hands. The function of the thyroid is to maintain a steady and consistent blood flow to all parts of the body by regulating the heart muscle. When the thyroid is off in either direction, there is concern and there should be intervention.

When an individual has hypothyroidism, the thyroid under functions and the heart becomes less efficient. That means that blood-oxygen levels begin to fall and the heart can become enlarged and weakened. Sludge can build up in the arteries and there can be an increased risk of heart damage.

There are several ways to diagnose hypothyroidism. Blood tests, basal temperature, and simply observing the symptoms of the patient are all means of diagnosis. Most doctors use a combination of these methods. When a diagnosis is made, treatment is generally pretty simple. There are several drug options; one is synthetic and generally given to men (synthroid or levoxyl) and the other is natural (a pig thyroid) called armour thyroid that works better in women.

Women should also be aware that the standard lab blood tests tend to still list the normal range for women as the same level for men. That is due to the traditional gender bias in research and dosage. In reality, these ranges are different. You and your physician should know that what is “normal” for women is less than what is “normal” for men. Generally, men need a reading of 4 for thyroid-stimulating hormone in their blood tests and women need a reading of 2.5 or more.

In conclusion, there are a list of five symptoms that identify a low thyroid function. If you suffer from these, be sure to talk to your physician and have them check to see if you need to take a thyroid medication. It might just save your life.

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