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Thyroid And The Heart

Find out how thyroid disease can have a profound effect on the cardiovascular system.
Thyroid And The Heart

Medically Reviewed by:
Medically Reviewed by:

If you research thyroid problems, you may be concerned to find out that there is a connection between thyroid dysfunction and heart disease. The good news? Treating the thyroid dysfunction often reduces the heart problems.

How does hypothyroidism affect the heart?

When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change. Hypothyroidism can affect many different systems in your body, including heart function. A slow down of thyroid hormone production may cause your heart to beat slower, become weakened, or fail to relax after each heartbeat. This can lead to some fairly severe problems, including: 

·     Slowed heart rate, which may cause atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat.

·     Increase in cholesterol which may worsen coronary artery disease

·     Weak muscles which may cause dyspnea, or shortness of breath after exercise

·     Stiffened arteries which may cause high blood pressure

·     Heart failure in people with mild underlying heart disease

How does hyperthyroidism affect the heart?

Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid is overactive. It can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing weight loss or a rapid or Less common than hypothyroidism, it can still cause heart problems. is less common than hypothyroidism, but it can also cause heart problems. It can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing weight loss or a rapid or unusual heart rhythm. Hyperthyroidism can also cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems.

Unfortunately, treating hyperthyroidism and its associated heart risk is more difficult than treating hypothyroidism. While some medications are available to slow the action of the thyroid hormone, often treatment involves removing or destroying the hyperactive part of the thyroid. Patients who undergo this procedure may then need to take thyroid replacement hormone for the rest of their lives.

What about atrial fibrillation? 

Atrial fibrillation (commonly known as AFib or AF) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke or heart failure. It can be caused by both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and is the most common heart risk associated with thyroid disorders. This is reason in and of itself you should get your thyroid levels tested if you suspect you have a condition affecting your thyroid.

Is thyroid disease a treatable cause of heart problems? 

While not all heart conditions can be treated by addressing thyroid disease, thyroid problems are the most treatable cause of heart conditions. If you don’t have any other contributing factors like a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, treating your thyroid problem may make a world of difference in treating your heart problem.

So, while there is a connection between the thyroid and the heart, there’s little need to worry. Improving your heart condition may be as simple as taking the synthetic form of the thyroid hormone levothyroxine (T4), and a diagnosis of hypothyroidism will ensure your doctor is paying attention to things that they may overlook during a regular physical on somebody without a thyroid problem.

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