Fitness Facts: January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Connie Colbert

By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

Up to 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition, and up to 60% of them are unaware they have a problem.

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. Although relatively small (approximately 2 inches long), the thyroid gland plays a huge role in our body. It influences the function of many of the body’s most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.

Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is vitally important to the body's overall well-being.

The thyroid makes hormones that help control multiple functions in the body.

  • They help regulate your metabolism.
  • They can affect how fast your heart beats.
  • They can regulate how deeply you breathe.
  • They regulate your body temperature, cholesterol levels and a woman’s menstrual cycle.

The two main hormones are triiodothyronine and thyroxine (T3 and T4, for short). The release of these hormones is controlled by the thyroid gland (with the help of the pituitary gland, which tells the thyroid gland how much hormone the body needs).

The third hormone affecting your thyroid is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in your brain and is the blood level that often is checked by a health care provider to see the balance of thyroid hormones within the body.

When the thyroid develops problems, it generally is because it is producing too much or too little of these two hormones.

If the thyroid produces too little hormone, it is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms include (symptoms of slow metabolism):

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog

Conversely, If the thyroid produces too much hormone, it is called hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include (symptoms of increased metabolism):

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast heart rate
  • Exercise intolerance or new onset of shortness of breath
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Hair loss

Risk factors for thyroid disease:

  • You have a family history of thyroid disease or any autoimmune disease.
  • You have Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders.
  • You have taken anti-thyroid medications or have been treated with radioactive iodine.
  • You have had thyroid surgery (you had your thyroid removed to treat thyroid cancer or to treat a symptomatic goiter).
  • You have been exposed to radiation to your neck or upper chest area.
  • Hypothyroidism occurs primarily in women older than 50.

The thyroid is essential for the human body to function properly. Without a thyroid or thyroid hormone replacement the body will shut down.

If you have any of these signs and/or symptoms or have a family history of thyroid disorder, schedule an appointment with your health care provider for a checkup.

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Bible Verse

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

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