Your thyroid is a small but mighty gland at the base of your throat that produces important hormones that act on nearly every cell in your body. The thyroid is most well known for its primary function, which is to regulate metabolism and protein synthesis. Did you know that the thyroid also influences heart function and that thyroid problems can lead to issues with the heart?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that works together with your pituitary gland to produce enough thyroid hormones for your body to function properly. When thyroid levels decline, your pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone to signal your thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid fails to produce enough hormones. An autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid or thyroid enzymes is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism and congestive heart failure
While commonly referred to as simply heart failure, congestive heart failure is a specific stage characterized by fluid buildup around the heart. This excess fluid prevents your heart from pumping as well as it should to keep up with the body’s needs.
While there’s no research to show that thyroid problems cause the specific congestive phase of heart failure, we do know that due to the thyroid’s role in heart function, having any kind of thyroid issues can cause or worsen heart problems.
In fact, having even mild hypothyroidism — when there is too little thyroid hormone — significantly increases the risk of death in people with congestive heart failure, according to a large study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2013.
Understanding congestive heart failure
Your heart has four chambers — two upper and two lower. The upper half has two cavities (atria) that receive blood, which is passed to the lower two ventricles responsible for pumping blood throughout the body.
Congestive heart failure develops when the ventricles that receive blood from your atrium can’t keep up with the pumping power necessary to circulate the blood back to your organs and tissues. As a result, blood and other fluids accumulate in your lungs, stomach, liver, and lower body.
While coronary artery disease is the most common cause of congestive heart failure, thyroid problems may contribute to weakening the heart. The most common symptoms of congestive heart failure are:
- Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet due to fluid accumulation
- Shortness of breath
- Low stamina
Symptoms tend to get worse over time.
Thyroid treatment may improve symptoms
When you visit CA Heart and Vein Specialists for congestive heart failure evaluation, Dr. Majed Chane may recommend a test to check your thyroid function. It’s helpful to rule out thyroid dysfunction as a cause of your symptoms.
If you’re found to have thyroid dysfunction, treating your thyroid may improve heart function and reverse symptoms of congestive heart failure. Before starting any treatment, Dr. Chane conducts a comprehensive evaluation to get to the root cause of your heart failure symptoms.
Other ways thyroid problems affect the heart
Something to consider if you have congestive heart failure is that thyroid problems can affect your circulatory system and heart in other ways.
Hypothyroidism and high blood pressure
In addition to heart failure, hypothyroidism can cause elevated blood pressure, which raises your risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s wise for anyone experiencing high blood pressure and certain circulatory issues to have their thyroid function evaluated to rule out thyroid dysfunction as a contributing cause.
Too little thyroid hormone raises cholesterol
Because your thyroid regulates your metabolism, having too little thyroid hormone causes cholesterol levels to climb. Increased levels of cholesterol in your blood is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Over time, cholesterol can collect and harden on the walls of your blood vessels, causing them to become narrow and raising the risk of blockage. Cholesterol deposits can break off and block blood flow to the heart or brain.
Treating thyroid dysfunction
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is the primary treatment for hypothyroidism. This involves taking oral thyroid hormone to replace what your thyroid is unable to make. Most people respond well to thyroid replacement and find that other symptoms improve as well.
Warning signs of low thyroid include:
- Intolerance to cold
- Dry hair
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
Even mild forms of thyroid dysfunction put your heart health at risk. The only way to know how well your heart functions is to have a checkup. Information gained from the results can help you understand how thyroid issues are affecting your heart health.
To learn more about the connection between heart disease and thyroid dysfunction, and to schedule a heart health checkup, contact our Huntington Beach, California, clinic to schedule an appointment or book your request here on our website.