Millions people in the US and worldwide are suffering from one form or another of thyroid disease. And many are not even aware of it. January has been designated the Thyroid Awareness Month.
According to patient advocate Mary Shomon and New York Times author, initiator of this awareness campaign
“Millions of people have an undiagnosed thyroid problem, and don’t realize that it is the source of the other health challenges they face. Obesity, depression, fatigue, high cholesterol, infertility, low sex drive, and many other conditions are often the direct result of undiagnosed and untreated thyroid conditions.”
Thyroid disorders are very difficult to diagnose. It took months and many different tests before my doctor could diagnose my hyperthyroidism a couple of years back. The celebrity Ophra Winfrey herself suffered from thyroid problems that led her to gain 40 pounds before it was diagnosed.
For the occasion of Thyroid Awareness Month, Mary Shomon has come up with a downloadable (FREE!) e-book “Check your neck, change your life” available at the campaign site.
Women are especially at risk of having thyroid disease and it is a heritable disease. It runs in my family and has affected my mom, a niece, and recently, a nephew was even suspected (still to be confirmed) to have it.
So what does thyroid awareness have to do with heart disease and stroke?
The signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders are varied and many and can be confused with those of other diseases. However, they affect the pulse rate, blood pressure, and heart rate and can lead to heart palpitations and abnormal heart rhythms. Thyroid health is therefore closely linked to cardiovascular health. A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a link between low thyroid function and heart failure risk
Mary Shomon recommends checking your neck regularly for signs of abnormality:
- Stand in front of a mirror
- Stretch your neck back
- Swallow water
- Look for enlargement in your neck (below the Adam’s Apple, above the collar bone)
- Feel the area to confirm enlargement or bump
- If any problem is detected, see a doctor.
There are definitely people who have discovered their own thyroid problems after noticing a lump or swelling in the neck area. But remember that checking your neck is similar to breast self-exams, in that it’s not conclusive. So a thorough examination by a physician is always needed to diagnose or rule out thyroid disease.
So take good of your thyroid, and take good care of your heart!