Feeling Fabulous at Fifty-ish: Your Thyroid and You



I’d like to introduce you to your thyroid. Place your palm gently on your throat. Slide it down to the base of your neck. Your thyroid is located on either side of your windpipe (or trachea), beneath your thumb and tips of fingers. Your thyroid is your friend – the hormones it produces maintain your metabolism, energy levels, and more. Unfortunately, thyroid problems begin to occur more frequently as we get older. Knowing what to look for will help you to “stay fabulous.”

I myself have hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed shortly after my son was born (22 years ago). Recently I spent 10 days in Africa visiting my husband. In all the excitement, I forgot my thyroid prescription! Can you imagine?! I panicked. I began to madly search the web for all things thyroid. That’s when I realized how prevalent it was in our age group and wanted to make sure you knew about it, too. Luckily I was able to find the prescription there! But maybe this information will alleviate any concerns you might have.

So how common is it? Here’s what Thyroid.org says about the disorder’s prevalence: “An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. One woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.”

The Thyroid’s Function

This little butterfly shaped gland has a big job. It produces the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These impact …

  • Metabolism (the rate a body uses fats and carbohydrates and protein production)
  • Breathing
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Heart rate
  • Central and peripheral nervous systems
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels

There are two main types of thyroid disorders:

Hypothyroidism – when the gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, and

Hyperthyroidism – when the gland produces too much

Symptoms

Hypothyroidism:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Hoarse voice
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Frequent or heavy periods
  • “Brain fog”
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Sensitivity to cold, chills
  • Pale and/or puffy face
  • Trouble sleeping

Hyperthyroidism:    

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity
  • Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
  • Hand trembling (shaking)
  • Hair loss
  • Rapid heart rate
  • In some cases, unexplained weight loss
  • Missed or light menstrual periods

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is time to see your doctor. If you are (Fabulous) Fifty-ish, doctors commonly order these tests at your annual well visits. This is a simple diagnostic run with your regular blood work. But first I should explain what they are looking for and why. Your pituitary gland and hypothalamus release TSH, thereby signaling the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4. The lab will use radioimmunoassay techniques to measure the hormones circulating in your blood. It is important to know that no one single laboratory test is 100% accurate in diagnosing all types of thyroid disease. Be sure to ask your doctor to use a combination of two or more tests, if possible, to detect even the slightest abnormality of thyroid function.

Thyroid disease is easily managed with a prescribed hormone pill, taken once daily. Once you begin this treatment it is recommended that it continue for the remainder of your very long and wonderful life. Diet and exercise, along with copious amounts of water, will soon decrease any resulting weight gain and the “brain fog” will clear. I strongly encourage you to have this test at your next annual well visit, or sooner if you are noticing any of these symptoms. You will be very glad you did. All the best to you, and stay fabulous.

 


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