Do you have uncomfortable pressure in your chest that comes and goes? Are there areas of your upper body, back, or jaw that cause you pain? Do you experience shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness? These may be warning signs that signal an impending heart attack or stroke.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with approximately 610,000 people dying from this condition each year. There are several different types of heart disease with each having its own unique warning signs and symptoms.
Arrhythmias are a result of abnormal heart rhythms. The symptoms may vary depending on the specific arrhythmia you have but generally, symptoms include: lightheadedness, fainting spells, dizziness, and chest pain.
Atherosclerosis is a form of heart disease that reduces blood flow to your extremities. In addition to chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms of atherosclerosis include coldness and/or numbness experienced in the limbs as well as a general weakness in the arms and legs.
Coronary artery disease is a result of the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Because the arteries are responsible for transporting oxygen-rich blood through the heart and lungs this condition can result in chest pain, a feeling of pressure on the chest, nausea, and indigestion.
Cardiomyopathy causes the enlargement of the muscles in the heart, which leads to them becoming too thick and weak. Symptoms of this condition include: fatigue, bloating, swelling of the legs and ankles, shortness of breath, and the feeling of a rapid pulse.
Heart disease is a serious condition that can be fatal if left unaddressed. It is important to be aware of your risk factors for developing this condition. Unfortunately, there are many risk factors for heart disease and some are controllable while others are not. In fact, the CDC estimates that around 47 percent of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Risk factors include: family history with heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low levels of HDL, diabetes, obesity, alcohol abuse, smoking, and minimal physical activity. In most of these cases, heart disease can be prevented through lifestyle changes, consuming healthy food, and reducing stress levels, just to name just a few.
However, many other types of disease or organ dysfunction may also increase your risk. Early diagnosis and treatment of these diseases can significantly reduce the chances of developing heart disease. Hormone imbalance plays a major factor in the development of heart disease. Many studies have shown decreased levels of the hormone testosterone to be directly responsible for the development of heart disease. This is why statistically men are at more risk than women to die of heart disease. Low testosterone and estrogen levels in women also have a direct effect on the heart as well.
Thyroid hormone directly affects the heart’s ability to pump the blood through your body, with even a slight imbalance affecting heart function. Thyroid hormones relax the muscles of your blood vessels, allowing them to pump the blood through your body smoothly.
When an imbalance occurs, the blood vessels can weakened or harden, decreasing the amount of blood flow to the heart, and causing damage to occur. Long term undiagnosed thyroid disease can cause fatal coronary diseases. Balancing thyroid hormones can significantly improve the symptoms of heart disease, as well as, preventing heart disease from ever occurring. Thyroid imbalances can either make your heart beat faster or slower, with each having negative results such as changing cardiac output and contractility affecting arteries, blood pressure, and electrical impulses with the heart.
Low Thyroid Hormones
With too little thyroid hormones circulating within the body, your heartbeat slows down and can even cause irregular heartbeats to occur; Bradycardia, a form of arrhythmia, decreases the blood and oxygen pumped to the heart. If bradycardia becomes severe enough, due to low thyroid levels for an extended amount of time, cardiac arrest may occur.
Low thyroid hormones reduce the function of the heart, sometimes causing fluid to develop around it, causing pericardial effusion. This condition is created when high amounts of fluid build up in the pericardium, the sac that surrounds and protects the heart. Usually the heart beats easily against the pericardium, however, too much fluid restricts the heart from beating normally due to the surrounding pressure.
Low thyroid hormone levels can also cause high cholesterol for many people. Increased levels of “bad” lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are directly related to sub-optimal thyroid function. These hormones not only make cholesterol (good or bad), but they are also responsible for eliminating the cholesterol that we do not need. When the extra cholesterol isn’t removed, plaque develops within our arteries, clogging them. The result can be heart disease, stroke, or even heart attack.
Blood pressure can also become high when thyroid hormones are too low. Arterial stiffness, thickening, and decreased elasticity can occur when too little thyroid hormone is circulating within the body, increasing peripheral vascular resistance, causing blood pressure to rise. Many doctors prescribe statin drugs for high cholesterol levels and blood pressure medication without first checking thyroid hormone levels to see if they could be the the underlying cause.
High Thyroid Hormones
When thyroid hormones levels are too high the heart beats faster which can lead to a condition known as tachycardia. Tachycardia can go unnoticed until palpitations, heart pain (angina), shortness of breath, or dizziness starts to occur. Sadly when these symptoms have developed, heart disease is well on its way to affecting body and your quality of life.
A prolonged fast heart rate can also cause incoordination of the electrical impulses that travel to the heart. The effect on the electrical impulses of the heart can cause a serious condition called atrial fibrillation (Afib) to develop in the right atrium of the heart. Afib causes your heart to beat erratically and can be quite uncomfortable. There are 2.7 million individuals in the United States are currently living with Afib. The constant quivering or irregular heartbeat may lead to stroke, heart failure, and many other serious heart problems.
What Can I Do?
It is important for everyone, women especially, to have a full thyroid panel done that includes TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibody levels. Most mainstream doctors rely solely on TSH levels or maybe even T4 levels in diagnosing thyroid disease which, unfortunately, fails to detect imbalance sooner resulting in earlier treatment that could prevent heart disease from developing.
The thyroid also plays a significant role in heart function, such as having too little thyroid hormone, found in patients with hypothyroidism. This causes the heart to beat too slowly or irregularly. When this happens, your organs and tissues are not getting enough oxygen and nutrients. Diabetes, due to lack of insulin production or decreased ability to process, also contributes greatly to heart disease. Blood pressure changes and high cholesterol levels, which lends to clogging of the arteries, also impact heart function significantly.
Diagnosis and early treatment can prevent heart disease from developing. It is important to check for causes that may be a contributing factor to heart disease. These include hormonal imbalances, thyroid imbalances, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.
Our doctors at Holtorf Medical Group are specially trained to diagnose causes of heart disease and implement treatments that can prevent it.