Blast from the Past: Low Thyroid and Heart Disease

Note: This article was originally featured in the May 2001 issue of the Health Hunters Newsletter.

Low Thyroid and Heart Disease

What does low thyroid, or subclinical hypothyroidism, have to do with heart disease?  A lot, say Irwin Klein, M.D., and Kaie Ojamaa, Ph.D., in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For instance, people with low thyroid often have low to low normal heart rate, cardiac output, and blood volume, to name a few.

But if you have these symptoms and some other heart symptoms, what can you do?

Ron Hunninghake ,   M.D. ,   the  medical director at The  Center, often says  that subclinical  hypothyroid, or  even full-fledged hypothyroid is often one  of  the causes for  disease, including heart disease.

‘”The [blood circulation dynamic] changes typical of hypothyroidism…are accompanied by fewer symptoms and signs,” says Dr. Klein. The most common signs are a slow heart rate, mild hypertension, a narrow pulse rate, and attenuated activity on a chest examination. A higher serum concentration of cholesterol is sometimes a consideration.

About 7 to 10% of older women have subclinical hypothyroidism. This is often characterized by a high serum thyrotropin concentration and a low normal thyroid hormone concentration. Dr. Hunninghake said that low normal concentrations of  thyroid hormones are often an example of  sub-clinical  hypothyroidism along with a  degree  or  two cooler than a normal 98.6 degree axial ( arm pit) temperature taken first thing in the morning.

A study in the Netherlands tested 1146 post menopausal   women  and found that those with subclinical  hypothyroidism were more likely to have a  history  of  heart  attacks  and  had  a higher frequency of  calcification of  the aorta.

What is the best way to find out if your thyroid is running low? Have your doctor check your serum thyrotropin and thyroid hormone levels and take your arm pit temperature first thing in the morning. If the numbers are low and your temperature is low, your thyroid is probably running low.