Thyroid Health

Denise Austin
by Denise Austin | 
As women, maintaining the health of our thyroid is important. Learn more about thyroid symptoms, and get my tip for what to do if you are worried about your thyroid.

What Is Your Thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland located in the neck that releases hormones. These hormones control body temperature, heart rate and the speed with which the body burns calories, and can affect mood, appetite, strength, brain function and more. Many people have no problems with their thyroid regulating itself, but an estimated 13 million Americans (mostly women) do have an over - or underactive thyroid.

Underactive Thyroid: Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t create and release enough of the hormone thyroxine. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:

  • Fatigue and body aches
  • Memory loss
  • Feelings of being cold all the time
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Heavy periods
  • Thinning hair and dry skin

Women over the age of 60 or who have gone through menopause are more vulnerable to hypothyroidism, but anyone can experience it. Prescription medication can help to control symptoms, and it is important to talk with your doctor to manage an underactive thyroid, as not doing so can lead to serious complications.

Overactive Thyroid: Hyperthyroidism

An overactive thyroid produces too much of the thyroxine hormone. Symptoms include:

  • Heart racing and/or arrhythmia
  • Feeling too warm
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems sleeping 

Hyperthyroidism is rare - only about 1% of people in the United States are diagnosed with it, and risk factors include a family history of the disease, medical conditions such as pernicious anemia or Type 1 diabetes, and consuming a lot of iodine in your diet. Drugs, iodine therapy and surgery are all common ways to treat this condition, so be sure to address any of the above symptoms with your doctor to determine the best path for you.

My suggestion if you are worried about your thyroid? Ask your doctor for a blood test! Tests these days can detect the slightest level changes to your hormones, so be your own thyroid health advocate and work with your doctor!

You can find more lifestyle advice and tips about the ins and outs of women's health in my latest Fit Over 50: Your Best Body Now magazine issue! 

Let's live FIT, HAPPY and HEALTHY - together!