An underactive thyroid may put you at a greater risk of heart failure.
Your thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, helps regulate your metabolism by releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones include triodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (thyroxine or T4).
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough of these hormones. The condition can affect your energy levels, slow down many of your body’s functions including your heart rate, increase the fluid around your heart, raise your cholesterol levels, and, ultimately, lead to heart failure. Taking medication to replace missing thyroid hormones may help or reverse some heart conditions, in addition to treating your other symptoms.
Know the Signs
Protect your heart health by discussing any potential symptoms of hypothyroidism with your healthcare provider or an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in glandular issues and hormone imbalances. In addition to high cholesterol and a slow heart rate, some common symptoms include:
- Difficulty tolerating the cold
- Dry or thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Fertility issues
- Goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
- Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness, stiffness or pain
- Swollen or puffy face
- Weight gain
When It Doesn’t Start in the Heart
Your heart is impacted by a number of things, including chronic diseases that don’t seem like they would have anything to do with your heart. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can maintain good cardiovascular health if you have or have had any of the following conditions:
- Diabetes: Diabetes can cause sugar to build up in your blood, which can damage your heart and other organs.
- Cancer: Chemotherapy and radiation can weaken the heart muscle, and radiation has additional heart-related side effects, ranging from slowing the heart rate to narrowing of the heart valves, a condition known as stenosis that can strain the heart.
- Kidney diseases: Chronic kidney problems can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other problems with the vascular system. All of these issues are risk factors for heart disease.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Patients with IBD have a small, but noteworthy, risk of developing blood clots. These clots form most commonly in the lungs and legs, but they have been known to occur in the heart (where they can cause a heart attack) or the brain (where they can cause a stroke).