According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. With thyroid disease on the rise, more and more Americans suffering from fatigue, depression, anxiety, sluggishness, and stubborn weight gain are asking themselves “Could it be my thyroid?” Although they may not always be right, it would certainly not hurt to get it checked as thyroid disease is so underdiagnosed and misunderstood. Knowing this, I feel it would be of tremendous value to present research-backed information on the thyroid and heart connection. Being aware of your health risks is the first step towards living a happier and healthier life.
AUTOIMMUNE THYROID & CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
According to a study published in the journal Thyroid, individuals treated for Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the two most common autoimmune thyroid diseases which generally cause hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectfully, had significantly more hospitalizations from cardiovascular disease than controls. This rate was threefold higher for patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Moreover, individuals with multi-nodular goiters were also found to have significantly more hospitalizations from cardiovascular disease than controls.
Another study published in the journal of the International Society for Vascular Health and Aging found hypothyroidism, a condition where thyroid hormone levels are low, was highly prevalent in patients with clinical coronary heart disease, and was associated with several cardiovascular risk factors, including high cholesterol and homocysteine levels. These risk factors were even higher for females. Interestingly, another study posted by the International Journal of Basic and Clinical Endocrinology found that people suffering from hypothyroidism, even subclinical, have some degree of endothelial dysfunction, high homocysteine levels, increased arterial stiffness, all of which lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart failure. However, the study also found that these risk factors were significantly reduced after proper thyroid hormone treatment.
If you are a thyroid patient, it would be wise to have your homocysteine and cholesterol levels checked. Likewise, if you are suffering from some form of cardiovascular disease, it may be very beneficial to speak with your doctor and have your thyroid hormone levels checked because fixing them may reduce the severity of cardiovascular disease.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
In addition to correcting their thyroid imbalance, individuals with thyroid disorders would benefit greatly from taking measures for reducing their risks of arthrosclerosis or stroke. Here are several:
• Avoiding foods high in saturated fat while increasing their daily intake of antioxidants that will quench the oxidative stress-causing free radicals.
• Ensuring a daily intake of 25 to 30g of soluble and insoluble fiber. Several observational studies have reported a lower incidence of coronary heart disease in patients who consume high amounts of fiber every day. Soluble fiber has also been found to improve insulin resistance, which is important for patients with diabetes, and reduce cardiovascular disease markers including total and LDL cholesterol levels.
• Constantly engaging in relaxation techniques including yoga and/or meditation. Meditation has been shown to be very effective in the reduction of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress in people with chronic diseases. There is also a great amount of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of yoga in combating stress, anxiety, depression, as well in improving blood pressure, menopausal symptoms, and glucose regulation, among others…
• Are you getting adequate amounts of sleep daily? If so, are you still struggling to get out of bed despite planning for at least 8 hours in bed? Are you having a hard time falling asleep? These may seem trivial and irrelevant but they are far from being so. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia are unfortunately so underdiagnosed and misunderstood mainly because they are subtle and we as humans get accustomed to our daily routine and/or simply because we don’t have the time to think about it. The health consequences of sleep disorders are far from benign as they lead to a significantly increased risk of hypertension, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, obesity, and depression.