More than 30 million Americans — about 1 out of every 8 adults — have been diagnosed with heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. While high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are major contributors to those numbers, what many people don’t know is that heart disease can also be caused by an overactive thyroid (a condition called hyperthyroidism).
At Phoenix Heart, PLLC, our team uses state-of-the-art approaches to diagnose the cause of heart problems, including lab tests to check for thyroid activity. With locations in Anthem, Goodyear, and Glendale, Arizona, we make it easy and convenient for Arizonans to get the care they need for optimal heart health at every age.
Here’s how thyroid problems can affect your heart — and what symptoms to look for.
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, and it manufactures and releases several hormones that influence your overall health and wellness. Your thyroid hormones play a big role in growth and development, and they also help regulate your metabolism.
One of their primary roles is to help regulate the way your organs function. While just the right amount of thyroid hormones keep your organs running smoothly, when the level of thyroid hormones is too high, it “speeds up” organ function, making your organs work harder than they should.
If you have an overactive thyroid, it can speed up your heart function, making your heart beat too quickly. Over time, hypothyroidism can “wear out” your heart, leading to what’s known as high-output heart failure.
Overactive thyroid affects your heart in different ways, and that means it can cause different symptoms, too. Knowing these symptoms can help you get prompt care to avoid permanent damage to your heart.
Since an overactive thyroid increases the rate at which your heart functions, not surprisingly, a rapid heart rate is one of the most common symptoms associated with high thyroid hormone levels. While we all experience a rapid heart rate occasionally (like when we’re scared or stressed), hyperthyroidism causes your heart rate to speed all the time, even while you’re resting.
In addition to a faster heart rate, hyperthyroidism can also cause you to have an irregular heart rate or atrial fibrillation. Also called Afib, atrial fibrillation occurs when the upper chambers of your heart beat erratically and “out of rhythm.” Again, while occasional “blips” in your normal rhythm pattern generally aren’t anything to worry about, chronic irregularities can significantly increase your risk of stroke.
Finally, many people who have hyperthyroidism also have high blood pressure, in part due to the excess activity of the heart. If you also have atherosclerosis (clogged or narrowed arteries), elevated blood pressure can cause chest pain or angina, as well. All this excess strain on the heart can lead to an enlarged heart and thickened heart walls (cardiac hypertrophy), eventually causing heart failure.
An overactive thyroid can cause other symptoms, too, including:
Hyperthyroidism becomes more common as we age, and what’s more, the heart-related symptoms of overactive thyroid also occur more frequently in older men and women.
Monitoring your thyroid function is just one way you can prevent heart problems, especially as you get older. At Phoenix Heart, our cardiologists perform comprehensive diagnostic testing for heart-related symptoms, getting to the root cause of symptoms so your care can be tailored to your needs. If you’re having any type of unusual heart symptoms or if it’s been a while since you’ve had a cardiac evaluation, call the office or use our online form to schedule an appointment today.