Hyperthyroidism and Your Heart
Hyperthyroidism and Your Heart

About one in every one hundred people suffers from hyperthyroidism. It’s more common in women, and can go undiagnosed due to the presentation of symptoms. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can be serious, so here’s a primer on what causes it, what it does, and how it’s treated.

What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the front of your neck. It produces the hormone thyroxine, which plays vital roles in brain development, digestion and bone maintenance. This hormone also regulates heart and muscle function and is directly associated with energy levels throughout your body, making your thyroid especially important to your heart. If the thyroid produces more hormones than your body needs, the result is called hyperthyroidism. When thyroid levels are unbalanced and producing too much thyroxine, the cause can stem from a variety of issues including Graves’ disease, inflammation of the thyroid, thyroid nodules, consuming too much iodine or thyroid hormone medicine, and in rare instances, benign pituitary tumors.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Since symptoms can often appear to be unrelated, or due to another cause, a blood test and imaging are required for diagnosis. They include:

• Unexplained weight loss
• Nervousness
• Trouble sleeping
• Dry, brittle hair
• Irregular heartbeat
• Constant hunger
• Shaky hands
• Frequent bowel movements
• Fatigue or muscle weakness
• Irritability and mood swings
• Heat intolerance
• Excessive sweating

Increased thyroid hormone levels pose a serious risk to your health if left untreated. It can cause your heart to beat too forcefully and with an abnormal rhythm that can result in atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, angina, and heart failure.

How It’s Treated
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your hyperthyroidism and may include medication, radioiodine therapy or surgery. The goal is to reduce thyroid hormone levels and eliminate the symptoms causing risks to your heart. Your age, other conditions you may have, tolerance of medication and surgical access are all factors to take into consideration. If you’re experiencing any symptoms that concern you, ask your doctor to evaluate your thyroid function. It may sound scary, but treating hyperthyroidism almost always allows your heart to be restored to good health.