When a person experiences a problem with their heart, blood pressure, or even high cholesterol, they usually begin with their primary doctor. Your doctor, after evaluating the heart disease symptoms, may refer you to a cardiac specialist. Cardiologists may only look at the heart disease symptoms at hand, not considering the possibility that thyroid hormone imbalance could be the cause.
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.
It is very important for us to know how our thyroid hormone levels are functioning within our body. The health of your heart depends on good thyroid hormone balance. Ask your doctor to order a full thyroid panel so you can be aware of how yours are doing!