About 13 million Americans are affected by thyroid disease or thyroid disorder, and more than half of these conditions remain undiagnosed. Symptoms of thyroid conditions often are overlooked or mistaken for symptoms of other conditions.
Women are five times more likely to have thyroid dysfunction than men. They are at particularly high risk for developing thyroid disorders following childbirth and menopause. Symptoms such as fatigue and depression are common during these periods, but these symptoms also may be indicators of thyroid disease.
It is generally recognized thyroid function becomes less optimal with age, so those who are over age 40 might want to be especially aware of their thyroid status.
Symptoms Of Thyroid Disorder
Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, is the most common form of thyroid disease and can produce a wide range of health problems:
- Weight gain or an inability to lose weight
- Sensitivity to cold or cold intolerance
- Dry skin
- Hair dryness or hair loss
- Muscle cramps
- Excess water retention
- Heavy menstrual periods
Hypothyroidism has also been associated with fertility issues, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland, is the less common form of thyroid disease, but it can also produce a wide range of health problems:
- Weight loss or an inability to gain weight
- Sensitivity to heat
- Tremor or muscle weakness
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent bowel movements
- Light menstrual periods
Testing For Thyroid Disorder
Many different health problems may be associated with either an underactive or overactive thyroid gland, so it is essential that basic thyroid function be tested regularly. An important component of examining the thyroid is choosing a physician who has the knowledge and awareness of optimal thyroid function. This physician will consider many factors in evaluating symptoms as they relate to the thyroid and will use a comprehensive four-point approach to investigating a patient’s thyroid function:
- Medical history and current symptoms
- An endocrinology-oriented physical examination
- Body temperatures (because the thyroid maintains body heat)
- Blood and urine testing (Physicians frequently measure only TSH, the hormone that stimulates or inhibits active thyroid hormone. However, iodine measurements, adrenal hormones, growth hormones and other hormone measurements, T4 and T3 measurements, and even mineral and vitamin levels are all important in analyzing thyroid conditions.)
Normal vs. Optimal Thyroid Function
Recent research indicates that normal thyroid function, based on TSH levels, is not necessarily optimal thyroid function.
For example, studies confirm that adequate treatment with thyroid hormones is protective against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and, thus, heart attacks. The increased risk of atherosclerosis in borderline hypothyroidism extends into the normal range. In other words, having a high normal TSH (borderline low function) increases the risk of atherosclerosis.
One study suggests that the lowest possible TSH within the normal range (i.e., around 0.4) is the best way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. As this study demonstrates, normal does not equal optimal. In the field of anti-aging medicine, we set higher goals to try to achieve the optimal range, not just the normal range.
People with subclinical hypothyroidism, (an elevated TSH with no dramatic symptoms of low thyroid function) often have elevated cholesterol levels. When treated with thyroid replacement hormones, there is a significant decrease in both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
People with low thyroid function tend to have high levels of homocysteine. People with high thyroid levels have low homocysteine levels. Therefore, treating people with high homocysteine levels and indications of hypothyroidism with appropriate thyroid therapy might benefit the high levels of homocysteine. This might reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and bone fractures.
A number of supplements are available to help balance thyroid hormones. After your consultation at RevitaLife, we will discuss with you the appropriate supplementation program that has a strong functional and anti-aging benefit for you and is consistent with the results of your four-point evaluation.