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Thyroid Health and Cardiovascular Health: Understanding the Connection

Thyroid Health and Cardiovascular Health: Understanding the Connection

Thyroid Health and Cardiovascular Health: Understanding the Connection
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If you’re familiar with the adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” you might have also heard that it’s good for the heart. But did you also know that laughter can increase blood flow measured in the brachial artery by about 22 percent, helping to improve cardiovascular health?

While laughter is a great stress reliever, keeping your heart healthy requires a more nuanced, multifaceted approach. This is where your thyroid gland comes in. This butterfly-shaped organ in your neck produces two main hormones — triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones play a key role in regulating the contraction of heart muscle and heart rate. These hormones also influence the responsiveness of blood vessels to signals from the nervous system, affecting blood flow.

Research shows that thyroid dysfunction, even within the subclinical range (mild thyroid hormone abnormalities), can contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. The cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to cells and organs. This goes to show how essential thyroid health and cardiovascular health are to your overall well-being.

In this article, we will discuss the impact of thyroid dysfunction on heart health and some key strategies for managing your thyroid health and heart health.

What is the impact of thyroid disorders on heart health?

1. Hypothyroidism

In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, leading to a slowed metabolism. This can result in elevated levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides, thereby increasing the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup) and coronary artery disease. Additionally, hypothyroidism can cause a reduced cardiac output (the amount of blood the heart pumps per minute) and bradycardia (slow heart rate), leading to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Hypothyroidism can also cause heart failure if left untreated. 

2. Hyperthyroidism

In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces an excess of thyroid hormones, leading to an increased metabolic rate. This can result in symptoms such as rapid heart rate (tachycardia), palpitations, and high blood pressure. Over time, untreated hyperthyroidism can strain the heart, increasing the risk of conditions such as atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm). Long-term untreated hyperthyroidism can also weaken the heart muscle, leading to heart failure.

3. Thyroid Nodules and Cancer

Thyroid nodules, which are lumps that form within the thyroid gland, can sometimes be cancerous. While thyroid cancer itself usually does not directly affect the heart, certain factors related to thyroid cancer treatment or complications can indirectly affect heart health. According to the findings from a study published in Scientific Reports in 2022, thyroid cancer survivors are more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to the general population with no history of thyroid cancer.

In another study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the researchers found that suppressive thyroid hormone therapy may have long-term cardiovascular effects in thyroid cancer survivors. The findings from this study point to a link between lower TSH levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality. This supports the existing guidelines from the European Thyroid Association and the American Thyroid Association, which advise against over-suppressing TSH in patients with low risk of thyroid cancer recurrence.

How can I safeguard my thyroid health and heart health?

Maintaining optimal thyroid function is essential for preserving heart and cardiovascular health. Here are some key strategies:

1. Get regular checkups

Talk to your doctor about getting your thyroid function tested, especially if you experience symptoms of thyroid problems like fatigue, weight changes, mood swings, or heart palpitations. Once diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider are essential for monitoring thyroid function and assessing cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rhythm.

2. Follow your treatment plan

If you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder,  you should adhere to your prescribed treatment regimen as directed by your healthcare provider. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy for hypothyroidism or antithyroid medications for hyperthyroidism helps restore hormonal balance and minimize cardiovascular complications. For hyperthyroidism, medications such as beta-blockers may also be prescribed to alleviate symptoms like rapid heart rate and palpitations.

3. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits

Here are some heart-healthy lifestyle choices you can incorporate into your everyday life:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can put a strain on your heart and worsen thyroid problems.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Choose nutrient-rich foods that support both thyroid and heart health. The American Heart Association recommends incorporating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy fats into your diet.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can disrupt your thyroid function and increase your risk of heart disease. Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can be helpful.
  • Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
  • Don’t smoke: Smoking damages your blood vessels and increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.

Key Takeaways

  • Thyroid hormones have a direct impact on the heart and cardiovascular system. They influence heart rate, cardiac output, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. 
  • When thyroid function is optimal, the heart is more likely to function efficiently, maintaining a steady heartbeat and healthy blood flow throughout the body.
  • By understanding the link between your thyroid and heart, you can take proactive steps to maintain both.
  • Early detection and treatment of thyroid problems can significantly reduce your risk of heart complications. 
  • Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and avoiding smoking, can support both thyroid and cardiovascular health.
  • If you have any concerns about your thyroid or heart health, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

Disclaimer

At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. For detailed medical information regarding diagnosis, treatment, and general practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider.
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