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Balancing Thyroid and Heart: Strategies for a Healthier, Well-balanced Life

Dr Rishika Agarwal 891 Views
Updated: 23 Jan 2024
Published: 12 Jan 2024
Balancing Thyroid and Heart

Diagnosing and treating thyroid diseases are crucial, primarily to prevent potential cardiac complications. Thyroid issues, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism disease, have the capacity to exacerbate cardiac symptoms in individuals with existing heart conditions and worsen underlying heart problems. Additionally, it can introduce new heart-related issues in individuals with otherwise healthy hearts. So, read on to learn about the impact of thyroid issues on the heart. This article also outlines the steps you can take to balance the health of your heart and thyroid.

What is Thyroid?

Situated at the base of your throat, the thyroid gland, shaped like a butterfly, releases hormones that play a vital role in regulating your body's metabolism. This includes managing how much energy and oxygen your body utilises, as well as influencing muscle activity, digestive function, and skin tone. The thyroid's impact extends to every organ in the body, including the heart. Insufficient thyroid hormone, known as hypothyroidism, or an excess of thyroid hormone, referred to as hyperthyroidism disease, can have distinct effects on the heart.

Notably, thyroid hormone plays a role in determining the force and speed of your heartbeat, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Consequently, a malfunctioning thyroid gland can lead to issues that mimic heart diseases or exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions.

Hypothyroidism and Heart Health

Known for the underactive thyroid gland, hypothyroidism is a subtle condition marked by insufficient production of thyroid hormones. This deficiency impacts the normal functioning of both the heart and blood vessels. The decreased thyroid hormone level leads to weakened heart muscle contractions and a failure to fully relax after each heartbeat. This inability to relax may result in diastolic dysfunction, causing stiffening of the heart's pumping chambers and potentially leading to heart failure. Cardiac symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include:

  • Slow Heart Rate: Hypothyroidism typically lowers the heart rate by 10 to 20 beats per minute, especially in individuals with existing heart diseases.
  • Increased Blood Pressure: An underactive thyroid can induce arterial stiffening, elevating blood pressure, particularly diastolic blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure heightens the risk of conditions like heart attacks and stroke.
  • Elevated Cholesterol Levels: Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in aiding the liver to remove excess bad cholesterol. Insufficient thyroid hormones can lead to increased levels of bad cholesterol.
  • Raised Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Due to elevated cholesterol, hypothyroidism raises the risk of coronary heart disease, characterised by interrupted blood supply to the heart due to cholesterol and fatty deposits in artery walls.
  • Cardiac Insufficiency (Heart Failure): Hypothyroidism can contribute to cardiac insufficiency symptoms, even in patients with relatively mild underlying heart diseases.
  • Shortness of Breath: Weakness in skeletal muscles often causes shortness of breath on exertion and poor exercise tolerance in hypothyroidism. In individuals with existing heart diseases, it may be due to worsening heart failure.
  • Swelling: Oedema may occur due to worsening cardiac insufficiency. Additionally, hypothyroidism itself can lead to a kind of oedema known as myxoedema, characterised by a buildup of abnormal molecules and proteins around the body's cells.

Hyperthyroidism and Heart Health

Known for the overactive thyroid, hyperthyroidism is caused by the excessive production of thyroid hormones. Although less common than hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism can also negatively impact heart health. Excessive thyroid hormone levels force heart muscles to work harder, taking a significant toll on individuals with heart diseases. The surplus thyroid hormone intensifies the force of heart muscle contractions, elevates the oxygen demand, and increases the heart rate, significantly augmenting the heart's workload. Cardiac symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism include:

  • Increased Heart Rate: Undetected hyperthyroidism commonly leads to an elevated resting heart rate and increased heart rate with mild exertion, often surpassing 100 beats per minute (known as tachycardia).
  • Raised Blood Pressure: Forceful cardiac contractions elevate blood pressure. An overactive thyroid typically affects systolic blood pressure more than diastolic blood pressure, placing added strain on the heart. 
  • Palpitations: Palpitations manifest as noticeable strong, rapid, or irregular heartbeats. While some may be harmless, they can indicate underlying heart rhythm issues.
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythms: Hyperthyroidism increases the likelihood of developing rhythm problems, with atrial fibrillation (AF) being one of the most common. AF is an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate, elevating the risk of blood clots in the heart. Other arrhythmias, such as premature ventricular complexes (PVCs) and ventricular tachycardia, may also occur.
  • Risk of Heart Failure: The increased blood pressure, faster heart rate and potential rhythm disturbances place significant strain on the heart over time, potentially leading to heart failure. While rare, the risk is greater in individuals with pre-existing heart diseases.
  • Shortness of Breath: Exertional shortness of breath may result from skeletal muscle weakness associated with hyperthyroidism or worsening heart failure.
  • Worsening Angina: Individuals with coronary artery disease may experience exacerbated symptoms, including increased angina or even a heart attack, with hyperthyroidism.

How to Take Care of Your Heart with a Thyroid Condition?

Fortunately, in most instances, the risk of heart problems diminishes when the underlying thyroid condition is identified and treated. Therefore, adhering to your prescribed treatment plan and attending all scheduled appointments is crucial. It's important to avoid under- or over-treating a thyroid condition, as both scenarios can be detrimental. Regular blood testing enables your doctor to tailor your treatment dose appropriately. Even when your thyroid function is stable and corrected, ongoing care for your heart remains essential. There might still be a risk of heart disease, particularly if your cholesterol levels and blood pressure persistently stay elevated. To safeguard your heart, you can:

  • Stay active: Consult with your doctor about staying active with a thyroid condition, inquiring about safe and effective exercise routines for both overactive and underactive thyroid conditions.
  • Adopt a Healthy Diet: Ensure your diet includes ample fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting salt intake to no more than 5 grams per day. The Mediterranean diet has proven benefits for heart health and cholesterol reduction
  • Monitor your Blood Pressure: Regularly check your blood pressure, ideally at least once a year, to ensure it remains within a healthy range. Learn how to measure your blood pressure at home.
  • Quit Smoking: Notably, smoking poses significant harm to your heart and increases the risk of heart attack.
  • Manage Stress: Chronic stress can exert excessive strain on your heart, leading to elevated blood pressure. Try breathing exercises or meditation for relaxation.

In a Nutshell

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions. Conditions such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can have various consequences, with heart-related issues being a primary concern. These issues include elevated blood pressure, slow or fast heart rate, irregular heartbeats, heart failure and more. Effectively managing thyroid diseases is key to maintaining optimal heart health. If you observe any symptoms or experience new or worsening cardiac issues, then it is advisable to undergo testing for thyroid disease.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Who is at a higher risk of developing thyroid problems?

    Answer:- IIndividuals with a higher likelihood of developing thyroid disease include those of white ethnicity aged 60 or older, born female, with a family history of thyroid conditions, or a history of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or radiation treatment

  2. How to prevent thyroid disease?

    Answer:- To lower your risk, request a thyroid collar during X-rays, perform self-checks on your neck for lumps and swelling, quit smoking, limit soy intake, regularly test for thyroid function.

  3. How is hypothyroidism treated?

    Answer:- Levothyroxine is often prescribed to address an underactive thyroid. Taken once daily, this replacement hormone replicates thyroxine, the hormone naturally produced by the thyroid gland.

  4. How is hyperthyroidism treated?

    Answer:- Physicians commonly prescribe methimazole, or PTU for hyperthyroidism treatment. If tablet treatments prove ineffective, surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland is an alternative. Another option is radioactive iodine treatment to slow down the production of thyroid hormones.

  5. Which is more common - hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism?

    Answer:- Hypothyroidism is more prevalent than hyperthyroidism globally.

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