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Thyroid Disorders and the Shocking Link to Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, and Obesity

Image: Thyroid Disorders and the Shocking Link to Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, and Obesity
Woman getting ultrasound of a thyroid. (Alexander Raths/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Monday, 22 Dec 2014 05:11 PM

Thyroid disease not only affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States, it affects more than 700 million people worldwide. Even more shocking than those statistics is the impact thyroid disease has on the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

The thyroid is a small but powerful butterfly shaped endocrine gland in the neck. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, "The hormones it secretes are essential to all growth and metabolism. The gland is a regulator of all body functions."

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There are various thyroid disorders but two specific conditions are hypothyroid, which is when the gland does not produce enough regulating hormones, and hyperthyroid which is the overproduction of hormones.

Thyroid disease has a strong negative impact on cardiovascular health. The America Heart Association published a study that examined the effects of thyroid hormone on the heart including blood flow, blood pressure regulation, pulmonary hypertension, lipid metabolism, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. The researchers concluded, "The cardiovascular signs and symptoms of thyroid disease are some of the most profound and clinically relevant findings that accompany both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism."

Diabetes is another illness that is linked with thyroid disease. Clinical Diabetes reports, "Diabetic patients have a higher prevalence of thyroid disorders compared with the normal population." Further, "The presence of thyroid dysfunction may affect diabetes control. Hyperthyroidism is typically associated with worsening glycemic control and increased insulin requirements."

Thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon and its cause remains unclear. However, there may be a link between thyroid disease and breast cancer although the data on this relationship is controversial due to conflicting study results. One study published in Breast Cancer Research did find a link between thyroid disease and breast cancer. According to Dr. Orhan Turken and colleagues, "The incidences of autoimmune and nonautoimmune thyroid diseases were higher in breast cancer patients than in control individuals." A study published in Thyroid Research Journal also identified a link, noting  "…reduced iodide concentration, elevated levels of the thyroid hormones and antibodies contributed to an increased risk of breast cancer in previous reports and in our study." However, the question of whether breast cancer influences the thyroid or the converse needs further study.

The link between thyroid disease and obesity is complex. The thyroid regulates metabolism and in the case of hypothyroidism, it fails to produce enough hormones. This may cause a sluggish metabolism and weight gain. In addition, symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue and depression, which could lead to inactivity and obesity. In addition, there is also the complex link between thyroid disease and diabetes. According to Obesity in America, "More than 80 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, are obese or overweight."

Clinical studies have shown links between thyroid health, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and many other health issues. Clearly, the influence the thyroid has on virtually every cell and organ in the body is powerful. However, treatments and preventative methods are evolving and due to the prevalence of the disease worldwide, the gland continues to generate scientific research.

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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Thyroid disease not only affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States, it affects more than 700 million people worldwide. Even more shocking than those statistics is the impact thyroid disease has on the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
thyroid, link, heart, disease, cancer, diabetes
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2014-11-22
Monday, 22 Dec 2014 05:11 PM
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