The heart, the thyroid and medications



When it feels like your heart is jumping erratically inside your chest, you ask yourself “What’s wrong with me?” If you are a health-conscious person like me, you will ask “Where did I do wrong?” Was it the coffee this morning? Was it the glass of wine I had last night? Was it the jogging run in the cold?

My palpitations started last weekend and worsened on Monday. Monday night was a sleepless night as I felt my heart regularly “missing a beat.” I was wreck on Tuesday, walking around like a bear with a sore head. So I sat down and went through my risk factors for heart problems.

  • Family history of heart disease – no
  • Weight/Body Mass Index – normal
  • Physical exercise – regular jogging runs and walks
  • Diet – not perfect but okay
  • Smoking – no
  • Alcohol – 1 glass a week
  • Coffee intake – 1 cup a day
  • Stress levels – manageable at the moment
  • Sleep – 6 to 7 hours a day is not bad
  • Postmenopausal – no yet
  • Blood pressure – always low
  • Lipids – never had any problems before

So my risk profile makes me a very unlikely candidate for a heart problem. So what is wrong with me? Do I need to see a doctor? Many people tend to put off seeing the doctor because of the feeling of being foolish when told “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.” Many times last Monday I started reaching for the phone and many times I changed my mind.

Then I began to think back. Have I felt like this before? What has changed in the last few months? And it dawned on me…

…racing pulse, irregular heartbeat, sleeplessness, nervousness, mood swings

Gosh! It’s my thyroid hormones again! In 2001, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and had my thyroids taken out. Since then, I had to have hormone replacement therapy and take levothyroxine in the form of tablets every day. It is a challenge to find the right dosage as it is dependent on age, body weight, and pre-existing medical conditions including pregnancy, menopausal stage, etc. I have had major problems a couple of years back when I moved to another country and had to change the brand of my medication – same dosage, same active ingredient, different brand name. It took us (me and my new doctor) almost a year of trial and error to figure out the right dose for me. Then silly of me – we changed to another brand late last year.

So now I believe I know what’s wrong with me. And in an hour, I have an appointment with my doctor.

I have learned a few lessons in this experience:

What happened before can happen again. Be careful when changing medication brands. The concept of “personalized medicine” is really important. In my case, the drugs in theory were the same – bioequivalent – but my body reacts differently to different brands.

No, I have to run to my doctor for a new prescription.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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