While thyroid disease and heart disease may not seem closely related, there is actually a significant connection between them! This is because the thyroid affects almost every cell and organ you have, including your heart. Therefore, thyroid dysfunctions can change things like your blood pressure and heart rhythm. There is increasing evidence that even small changes in levels of thyroid hormone may be associated with changes in how well the heart functions.
According to the World Heart Federation, heart disease is the number one killer of women around the world, with more than 8.6 million lives taken every year. This represents one-third of all deaths, and cardiovascular disease kills more women than cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. The Whole Heart Federation states:
“Despite progresses in the past years, women are still discriminated against when it comes to the management and treatment of cardiovascular disease. They are more likely than men to be under-diagnosed and under-treated, mostly because the presentation, progression and outcomes of the disease are different and less understood in women than in men.”
In a Dutch study called “The Rotterdam Study,” it was found that older women with subclinical hypothyroidism were almost twice as likely as women without this condition to have blockages in the aorta. They were also twice as likely to have had heart attacks. Having autoimmune hypothyroidism increased the risk even further.
In one study done at the Clinical Physiology Institute in Pisa, Italy, a total of 573 consecutive cardiac patients underwent thyroid function profile evaluation for a year. It was found that low-T3 syndrome was a strong predictor of death in cardiac patients and might be directly implicated in the poor prognosis of cardiac patients.
It’s important to recognize the effects of thyroid disease on the heart, because the restoration of normal thyroid function often reverses the abnormal cardiovascular problems.
How Does Thyroid Affect The Heart?
Too much homocysteine, an amino acid made in the body, seriously increases the risk of heart disease, as well as dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. Hypothyroidism appears to contribute to high homocysteine levels by compromising the liver’s ability to manage this amino acid.
Heart attack, heart failure and atherosclerosis
Hypothyroidism, high cholesterol and weight gain contribute to calcification, the so-called plaque, to develop in your arteries and make them stiff. All these effects increase the risk for heart attack, heart failure and atherosclerosis.
High Blood Pressure
Hypothyroidism can also lead to high blood pressure. Thyroid hormones are necessary to keep the heart vessels limber. If the vessels become stiff, the heart must pump harder which leads to a rise in the diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. This number should be 80 or less. Any reading consistently over 90 is considered high blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure will contribute to atherosclerosis, a risk for heart attack and stroke.
Tachycardia is an abnormally rapid heart rate. Increased levels of thyroxine released from the thyroid gland, as seen in hyperthyroidism, stimulate the heart to beat more quickly and more strongly. If the fast heart rate becomes severe, then palpitations may develop. In some people, prolonged stimulation of the heart with thyroxine may cause an incoordination of the conduction of electrical impulses within the heart and atrial fibrillation may develop. The increased contraction of the heart with increased cardiac output causes a pulse that is easily felt at the wrist and can also contribute to warm sweaty hands.
Irregular Heart Beats
Hypothyroidism causes your heart to beat too slowly or irregularly, to flutter with missing or additional beats. As a consequence bradycardia may develop; this form of arrhythmia leaves your organs and tissues without enough oxygen and nutrients. Severe bradycardia can result in cardiac arrest.
If you experience any negative symptoms related to your heart and you suffer from thyroid disease, then be assured there can be a connection.