Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hypothyroidism and Heart Disease: Here we go!

Now what?! I just finished clearing up a low blood count and a mild case of anemia (watch your aspirin intake folks - it's hard on the tummy) only to find my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) was above normal. TSH is excreted by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid gland (nice video here - after the ad ends) to produce the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which in turn is used by various organs and tissues of the of the body. Suffice to say your whole body pretty much needs the stuff (follow or Google these blog links if you want to dig into this stuff). The key here is to realize that a high TSH means low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. The pituitary essentially tries to kick-start the thyroid to secrete more of its hormones by overproducing TSH.

Hypothyroidism has a number of irritating symptoms (severe cases can result in a life threatening condition known as myxedema coma). The most common are fatigue and depression. Here is the list of symptoms from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) for all of us hypochondriacs:

• Dry skin and cold intolerance
• Yellow skin
• Coarseness or loss of hair
• Hoarseness
• Goiter
• Reflex delay, relaxation phase
• Ataxia
• Constipation
• Memory and mental impairment
• Decreased concentration
• Depression
• Irregular or heavy menses and infertility
• Myalgias
• Hyperlipidemia
• Bradycardia and hypothermia
• Myxedema fluid infiltration of tissues

There is also additional evidence (, American Thyroid Association) to suggest hypothyroidism (as well as hyperthyroidism) can have negative effects on the heart.

The real problem here is when and how to treat sub-clinical or mild hyperthyroidism. AACE has waffled in the past but their most recent statement is typical of head-in-the-sand traditional medicine; esentially, do nothing (gee, thanks, I was already doing that, slowly dying of heart disease, and feeling crappy in the process). Others disagree. Amazingly, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) makes a cautiously worded statement that suggests treating patients based on their symptoms rather than their TSH levels (what a concept). Mary Shomon (perhaps the "ThyroidHawk" of bloggers) takes a shot at the medical establishment in this article. Doubtlessly, the indifference and incompetence heart disease sufferers face is common among all the halls of traditional medicine.

I'll continue to update you on what happens in my "heart disease and thyroid saga." This is of particular importance to me since I discovered this article that suggests T3 rapidly lowers lipoprotein(a)! Oh, and you know darn well I'll be pestering Doctor Davis to chime in on the subject.



P.S. My next blog will update everyone on how the formation of the Lipoprotein(a) Foundation is coming. Suffice to say I am moving forward.


shreela said...

Do you use aspartame? A few years ago I had palpitations, and the insurance nurse told me to go to the ER after hearing my symptoms. They tested my blood and did an EKG, and then put me on a 24 hr monitor. The only abnormal test was I was a bit hypothyroid.

My GP at the time told me I wasn't hypo enough to start drug therapy, but to make sure he, or other drs tested my thyroid periodically. He questioned me about what was going on before the palpitations, I was tired and had drank more coffee than usual, then diet coke because I was addicted. He told me to only drink enough caffeine to avoid rebound headaches.

About 36 hours later, both my ankles and feet puffed up like water balloons (sometimes my gimp'ish leg did that, but never my good leg). So, he ordered liver and kidney function.

During the follow up, the new labs came back normal, and I blathered on about how the only thing I'd done differently since my first post-ER visit was to stop diet coke, and only drink 1 coffee in the morning. He figured out it was rebound diuretic thing causing my swelling, and it was the excess caffeine that caused the palpitations.

I told my OB/Gyn about my needing follow up for the hypothyroidism. It was completely normal. I haven't drank any soda in years, since that palpitation and swelling episode. So since I've read about some people having aspartame cause their hypothyroidism, I guess it's possible that it caused mine.

I've also read that excess soy might cause hypothyroidism in some.

Good luck!
(I hope this doesn't post twice; I lost my internet connection sometime around the time I clicked Publish.)

Anonymous said...

Curious - did you have any clinical symptoms? If not, what is your TSH level? I have seen a lot of competing information about when you should be concerned about TSH - some folks say that any TSH level above 2 mIU/L is cause for concern. Others say not to worry as long as it is below 3. The reference range for TSH is 5.5, which I find hard to believe.

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In a while I started giving these symptoms and did not know who suffered from hypothyroidism until I went to the doctor .... your information is very useful for people who have it ... thanks

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Thanks to the American Assoociation of Clinical Endocrinologist because I needed know the list of the symptoms of hte hypochondriacs, I think that it is a big problem in USA, be careful about that.

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