The Heart and Thyroid Gland

The Heart & the Thyroid Gland

Did you know that undiagnosed diseases of the Thyroid Gland can affect your heart?

About 200 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease.  Thyroid disorders for the most part are treatable; however, untreated thyroid disease can produce serious complications in other parts of the body, including the heart.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped structure that sits at the base of the neck.  It secretes hormones that are essential to all growth and metabolism. There are many types of thyroid disease, but the most common are hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid).Thyroid disease can often be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

How can hypo or hyperthyroidism affect your heart?

In Hyperthyroidism, increased levels of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine, are secreted and can stimulate the heart to beat more quickly and strongly.  It may cause a fast heart rate that is sometimes referred to as tachycardia.  Often times you might not even be aware that your heart rate is elevated, but in some circumstances, you may notice your heart racing.  In rare circumstances, prolonged stimulation of the heart with thyroxine can cause incoordination of the electrical impulses of the heart called atrial fibrillation.  Over exposure to thyroxine can also cause an increase in blood pressure – most commonly the systolic or top value of the blood pressure.

In Hypothyroidism an underactive thyroid gland can slow the heart rate and decrease the blood pressure.  Prolonged hypothyroidism causes metabolic changes in the body and can lead to increased levels of cholesterol.  Some types of elevated cholesterol can cause coronary artery disease.

There are many different treatment options for both hyper and hypothyroidism.  Your doctor will choose the best treatment for you based on your health history.  Patients with an altered functioning thyroid, will require life-long monitoring and will need to be informed about the signs and symptoms of thyroid disease by their health care provider.

For more information, please visit the Thyroid Foundation of Canada.

By Charlotte Baynham





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