The big connection between thyroid and heart disease
(Health Secrets) Having optimal levels of thyroid hormone is essential for preventing and recovering from heart disease says Dr. Kathy Maupin, a pioneer in anti-aging medicine and founder of BioBalance Health. While many conventional physicians seem to think that elevated thyroid is a risk factor for heart disease, the real culprit is actually low thyroid. When the thyroid gland does not make optimal levels of thyroid hormone, a downward cascade is set off in the body that can lead to death.
The connection between thyroid and heart disease
Hormones are the great communicators of the body. They are chemical messengers that transfer signals and instructions from one set of cells to another. Thyroid is the most important hormone because it simulates energy production. Thyroid strengthens muscles, and the heart is the most important muscle in the body. Thyroid also works to keep your heart healthy by:
- Keeping weight in the normal range
- Reducing water retention and swelling
- Powering a robust heartbeat
- Normalizing blood pressure
- Maintaining body temperature in the normal range
- Speeding up sluggish metabolism
- Helping the heart muscle achieve optimal functioning
- Providing more blood and oxygen when you are exercising
The chemical messages sent by the thyroid to the heart tell it to beat at a normal rate, which is between 60 and 80 beats per minute. The heart works like a pump, and this is the pumping rate necessary to ensure blood fully circulates throughout the body oxygenating tissues and organs. Any number above or below this range signals malfunctioning. The objective is to maintain a steady and consistent blood flow to all the parts of the body, without fluctuation. Thyroid promotes a positive ejection fraction, the measure of how much blood goes out of the heart with each beat and is available for oxygenating.
The low functioning heart is the most dangerous heart
Many practitioners worry about heart arrhythmias, but Dr. Maupin stresses that the low functioning heart is the real sleeper, and hypothyroidism (low thyroid) is the culprit. There are four kinds of damage a heart can undergo:
Arrhythmia is a cadence issue in which there is inability to fill up the atrium and ventricle so that blood can be effectively pushed out of the heart. If this goes on long enough, it can cause damage to the heart and also the tissues and organs because they cannot become fully oxygenated.
Narrowing of blood vessels is the result of plaque build up. Normally the heart (think circulating pump again) is strong enough to send blood to nourish the lungs and the rest of the body, and return it to then nourish the heart itself. But if blood vessels are blocked or occluded, the vessels at the end of the line will die because not enough blood can get to them. The longer this goes one, the more in danger the whole body becomes.
Heart attack occurs when blood vessels become completely occluded, and no blood is able to reach the heart. It’s sort of like a garden hose with a kink in it allowing pressure to build up but the water is trapped. This can cause the heart to stop beating, and can cause long term damage in which parts of the heart become dead. The heart a person is born with and had all their life becomes no longer capable of pushing blood out, and the ejection fraction plummets. Without a healthy ejection fraction, a person is no longer healthy.
Poor muscle tone can occur without a heart attack. This can happen from years of low thyroid as your life force drifts away. The heart without adequate thyroid becomes lax, the pulse is slowed, and nothing in the body is getting quite enough blood. It is why you are tired, cold and out of breath if your thyroid is low.
Symptoms of low thyroid as it relates to the heart include weight gain or loss, slow heart rate, dysregulated blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and feeling abnormally cold. Thyroid keeps the body warm, and all the bodily functions work better when you are warm.
Documenting low thyroid
In addition to presenting your symptoms anecdotally and being observed by your practitioner, there is a simple blood test that can determine low thyroid. This test measures thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and provides and indirect look at thyroid function. The theory behind it is that when the body is producing enough T3 and T4 (the two types of thyroid hormone the body naturally produces), TSH should be within a defined optimal range. However, when the thyroid gland has become sluggish and levels of T3 and T4 decline, the body mounts an effort to get the thyroid gland to produce more hormone. This is the function of TSH, and its elevation is a marker for low thyroid.
If a woman’s TSH reaches 2.5 on the lab test, it means tyroid hormone replacement is needed. The tipping point for men is higher, at 4.0. Yet most doctors still do not replace thyroid in women until their TSH is at 4.0, the men’s value. They say if they go to 2.5 they would be treating too many people! Lab reports still show only the 4.0 value as normal, dating back to the 1940s when male medical students were tested to determine a reference range. Later, it was determined that the sexes were different in their thyroid needs, but most doctors don’t seem to care. As a result, women can present with all the symptoms of low thyroid but are told by their doctors that their thyroid function is adequate unless their TSH reaches 4.0. If the woman persists, the next step is usually for the doctor to treat her with antidepressants.
Another way to determine low thyroid is through basal body temperature, which should be taken orally first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. A temperature reading below 97.9 indicates the need for attention to be paid to the thyroid. Start by supplementing your diet with iodine, a mineral sorely lacking in our food supply. Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormone, and you must have adequate iodine to produce healthy thyroid hormone. If this does not produce results, thyroid hormone replacement is indicated.
There is a tendency not to treat low thyroid because it is seen as having no relationship to the cardiovascular system by the medical establishment. But replacing it is critical to heart health, and overall health and well being. Replacement is easily done orally with natural thyroid hormone, the form of thyroid replacement that suits most women best. This form replaces both T3 and T4, unlike the synthetic replacement drugs which replace only T4 and assumes the body can convert T4 to T3, a situation that becomes more iffy as we age. And when women become stressed physically or mentally, they lose the ability to convert T4 to T3. At the cellular level, T3 is the more active form and it actually simulates everything that the body’s own thyroid hormone once did, but it needs to be balanced with T4 to make us as we were meant to be. The natural thyroid is pig thyroid, harvested from pigs raised strictly for medical use. It is well accepted by almost all women.
“There is a lot hanging on this,” says Dr. Maupin. “When all those symptoms are getting better, I know the heart is getting better. They [her patients] won’t be out of breath when they work out and the heart muscle is not getting lax, like an old pair of hose you just keep wearing and it doesn’t form on your legs anymore, it just hangs.”