About Thyroid Hormone20 years, 3 months ago
Posted on Nov 10, 2003, 7 a.m.
By Bill Freeman
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, over the trachea, or windpipe, just below the larynx. Despite its tiny stature, the thyroid has tremendous responsibilities, as it is the gland that affects virtually all metabolic processes. It does this by releasing certain hormones, which in turn regulate the body's metabolism, temperature, and heart rate.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, over the trachea, or windpipe, just below the larynx. Despite its tiny stature, the thyroid has tremendous responsibilities, as it is the gland that affects virtually all metabolic processes. It does this by releasing certain hormones, which in turn regulate the body's metabolism, temperature, and heart rate. If the thyroid is not functioning at its optimal level, neither are you.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of thyroid deficiency, also known as hypothyroidism. Many of them will sound to you like physical maladies that are supposed to be expected and tolerated as old age approaches:
- fatigue and general loss of energy; moving more slowly
- susceptibility to colds, viruses, and respiratory ailments
- heavy, labored breathing
- muscle cramps
- persistent low back pain
- bruising easily
- mental sluggishness, poor memory
- emotional instability-crying jags, mood swings, easily upset, temper tantrums, and the like; more easily made nervous or anxious
- getting cold easily, particularly in the hands and feet
- dry, coarse, or leathery skin; pale skin
- coarse hair and/or loss of hair
- brittle nails
- loss of appetite
- stiff joints; mild arthritis
- reduced interest in or energy for sex
- atherosclerosis (arteries clogged with fat, or plaque, leading to other cardiovascular problems)
- decrease in heart contractility; that is, the heart doesn't pump blood with sufficient force, leading to insufficient circulation, particularly to the brain
The detection of hypothyroidism is especially important for older individuals. One study found that in a population of elderly people, ages sixty and over, all of whom belonged to a particular senior citizens' center, 5.9 percent suffered from hypothyroidism. Another study, published in 1993 in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, found a noticeable decrease of thyroid activity and a very low prevalence of thyroid autoantibodies in healthy centenarians (people who are 100 years old or older).
Despite its prevalence in older individuals, hypothyroidism is one of the most overlooked conditions in those sixty and over. In fact, telltale symptoms are diagnosed in as little as 25 percent of elderly hypothyroid patients. In one instance, laboratory confirmations of hypothyroid patients were compared with these individuals' initial clinical examinations. The results? Only 10 percent of people with the disease were properly diagnosed in their primary clinical examination.
Some studies indicate that as many as 15 percent of people over age sixty have subclinical hypothyroidism. Which is to say, while they are, indeed, victims of hypothyroidism, their symptoms are too vague or too mild to yield a proper diagnosis. Thus, they continue to suffer without appropriate diagnosis or treatment.
Of course, it's possible that these symptoms may be the inevitable outcome of the aging process-but they are far more likely to result from a combination of low thyroid and nutritional deficiencies.
Correcting hypothyroidism can restore your energy, endurance, body heat, sexuality, mental vigor, and emotional resilience. It can boost resistance to colds and other respiratory conditions, protect against heart and arterial disease, and raise your defenses against cancer. Restoring the proper levels of thyroid hormone can even make your hair, skin, and nails smoother, stronger, and healthier.
The failure of physicians to diagnose underactive thyroid (T4 disease) is at epidemic proportions, and grossly compromises the quality of self-perceived health of those patients.