Welcome to episode 37. Thanks for joining me. Today I am diving in to our heart health and what it means to our heart health when we are dealing with hypothyroidism.
Do you have:
High or low blood pressure?
Fast or slow pulse?
Heart skips a beat?
Heart Disease, plaque buildup, heart attack?
These are all things that can be affected by thyroid disease.
Our heart uses thyroid hormone. Our heart is affected by changes in our medication or by the amount of medication we are taking. It is affected by low levels of T3. How many of you have a doctor that will only test TSH?
This could be affecting your heart.
When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone your heart can beat too slow or it can beat irregularly meaning it can flutter or miss beats. Long term consequences of this is that your tissues don’t get enough oxygen or nutrients which will make you feel physically bad. Our heart and the entire cardiovascular system is dependent on adequate levels of T3 for proper function. T3 helps improve how the heart contracts so when you are low you will have less cardiac output. Cardiac output means the amount of blood the heart pumps through the circulatory system in one minute.
You can also end up with plaques developing in your arteries and high blood pressure. Hypothyroidism can effect how blood is pumped in and out of the heart, how the lining of the arteries functions, cholesterol levels in the blood and more. Low T3 can increase the amount of cholesterol and fat circulating (technically called lipids) in the blood.
T3 is the main regulator of gene expression in the heart muscle. Gene expression means how genetic information is transferred in the cells of the body. It is the effect of a gene on the body. It is thought that low T3 levels are associated with increased death in patients already dealing with heart disease.
Hypothyroidism is associated with higher cardiovascular risk factors. This means that we have a higher chance of cardiovascular disease. The heart cells do not convert T4 in to T3 very well if at all so if T3 is low then the heart tissue feels the effects and doesn’t function as well as it should.
Treatment with thyroid medications is supposed to improve all risk factors but the problem is if you are treated with T4 only medication and you are not converting T4 to T3 for whatever reason, you may be at higher risk for issues with your heart.
There are not a lot of randomized controlled studies in this area but hopefully some will be done soon.
Bottom Line: Hypothyroidism affects the whole body. It has a negative impact on the heart and almost everything else when it isn’t treated.
You might hear from your doctor that NDT like Armour or Westhroid etc will cause a high heart rate. If this is the case for you then you must look at your adrenal health and/or iron levels. If you have high reverse T3 which is usually the case with cortisol or iron problems or even chronic inflammation you can see an issue with your heart rate. You could have a high heart rate if you are having a flare up of Hashimoto’s where tissue is being killed off and thyroid hormone is being released.
If you think your medication is causing heart palpitations, discuss it with your doctor and you may also want to try to take it in smaller doses. I am currently on Armour which my body doesn’t love as much as the compounded thyroid powder so when I take one whole pill I get palpitations throughout the day. I have to take half a pill 4x a day to get my body used to it. I also have adrenal issues and low iron which is not super responsive to iron supplementation so once those things are fixed, I should be good.
OK. I want to explain more about heart disease so you know what you are dealing with and how you can optimize your life choices so you can give your heart a fighting chance.
Heart Disease or Coronary Heart Disease are conditions that affect the heart muscle, valves or rhythm.
Cardiovascular Disease are conditions that affect blood vessels- usually that they are narrowed or blocked which can lead to a heart attack.
Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis- a disease of the arterial wall that leads to the narrowing and obstruction of the artery. The narrowing is because of sclerotic deformation of the artery and the development of raised patches called atherosclerotic plaques in the inner lining of the arterial wall. Depending on which organ in the body the artery feeds, atherosclerosis in those arterial walls will impair blood flow to that organ.
The two major types of Coronary Heart Disease are angina pectoris and myocardial infarction (heart attack).
AP happens when the space inside the coronary artery is narrowed but not closed off completely. At rest your body will be able to deal with less blood flow but any physical activity will cause the heart to have to work harder, the artery with the build up can’t supply enough blood to feed the heart muscle which can result in a gripping chest pain that can radiate to the neck and usually the left arm.
Heart Attack or MI happens when the coronary artery closes up all the way and blood flow to the heart muscle stops. This causes a portion of the heart to die or causes death.
About half the people who have a heart attack die in the first 2-3 hours and if you make it through a heart attack will take some time to recover and may suffer complications such as an abnormal heartbeat.
How do we prevent these conditions?
We first prevent the build up in our arteries- the atherosclerosis.
We avoid: smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, stress, anxiety, anger and the big ones- poor sleep and the standard American diet (SAD).
For 60 years or more we have been told to avoid fat and cholesterol in our diet. To eat margarine and cook with vegetable oils. That we need to be on statin drugs to manage our cholesterol.
We can thank the Diet Heart Hypothesis which states that dietary fats, including cholesterol, cause heart disease. A correlation was shown in a diagram of 6 countries (carefully selected out of 22 countries that had the same data available) that fat consumption and death from heart disease were related. When all 22 countries were put in the diagram the correlation between fat and heart disease wasn’t plausible. It actually shows there is no correlation at all between fat consumption and dying from heart disease.
A lot of money was thrown at scientific research in the US to prove this correlation to be true. The data that did not support the hypothesis was thrown out and the data that did was promoted and advertised. Studies in other countries that were done were proving this hypothesis to be wrong.
Many of the studies proving the correlation between dietary fat and increase in heart disease or death were funded by companies that proved to benefit from this idea that fat is killing us. We were being sold a false bill of goods and we have been believing it and paying for it with our health for years.
Is cholesterol really a bad thing?
The short answer is no.
The longer answer- We will die without cholesterol. Our bodies are made of billions of cells and almost every one of those cells produces cholesterol all the time. Why is this? Every cell uses cholesterol for structural integrity.
Saturated fats and cholesterol are used by our cells to make the cell walls firm. If they are flabby and fluid we would be structured like a worm.
Cholesterol is needed in different amounts all over the body depending on the purpose or function of the cell in that area.
Protective barriers like our skin will have much more cholesterol because we need a strong sturdy barrier to protect us from any invasion. If a cell needs to be softer and more fluid it will have less cholesterol.
Our cells communicate with each other and and transport molecules in and out of the cells-they need cholesterol and fats to do that.
Our brain uses about around 25% of all the cholesterol in our body.
Most of the cholesterol in our body does not actually come from the food we eat. Many studies have been done to show that dietary cholesterol does not have a huge effect on the cholesterol in our blood.
Our body was made to make it on its own. It makes about 85% of our cholesterol and the rest comes from food. When we eat more foods containing cholesterol our body makes less of it. We eat less of it, our body makes more.
Low cholesterol has been shown to produce emotional instability, problems with behavior, aggressiveness, violence, low self control and more.
Sex hormones are made from cholesterol too- low libido, adrenal issues, high or low estrogen etc.
Our liver produces much of our cholesterol and regulates its levels.
When our skin is exposed to sunlight, we make vitamin D from cholesterol.
Why do some people have high cholesterol and others don’t? Why will it be higher when we are under stress or have surgery? Why is it higher in winter and lower in summer?
Cholesterol plays a healing role in our body. It goes up when we need something to be healed. It’s higher in the winter because we have less sun exposure.
Damaging molecules end up in our blood stream and we have this layer of cells in our blood vessels that can be damaged by things going through our blood. These cells send a message to our liver that there is damage. The liver makes cholesterol and sends it to the damaged area in the form of LDL cholesterol to repair the damage. Once the damage is repaired/the wound is healed it goes back to the liver in the form of HDL.
If you have high LDL cholesterol you should be asking, what is causing damage in my body instead of how do I lower my cholesterol. Get to the root of the problem and the cholesterol will take care of itself.
Atherosclerotic plaques in your body are sources of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the way our body responds to any injury. It is there to get rid of whatever is causing the problem so the body can begin to repair itself.
Plaques in your arteries are the body's attempt at dealing with chronic, never ending damage that has been done to the blood vessels. The body is basically forming scar tissue in your arteries.
What causes all of this?
Processed foods is a big one, poorly managed blood sugar and sugar in the diet in large amounts. Remember that women should only have around 22grams of sugar per day and men should only have 24 grams per day. High blood sugar on a regular basis creates an inflammatory environment within the body.
Really quickly- some other things that cause inflammation in the body are the chemicals in products we use everyday- personal care products, household products, prescription drugs, exposure to smoke and pollution, pesticides, chlorine, microbes and parasites and even disrupted gut bacteria. Certain nutrient deficiencies, lack of sun exposure, no exercise and high stress are also big problems for our health in general but also in managing inflammation in the body.
How do we manage to have good heart health and good cholesterol?
Consuming high quality healthy fats:
Note it is NOT any particular fat that is good or bad but the way it is processed that makes it bad for us.
The types of fats we need to know and understand:
Saturated fat: a stable fat, doesn’t go rancid easily and our body can make it so it is considered non- essential. It is usually solid or semi solid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fat: pretty stable fat, won’t go rancid easily, our body can make it so it is considered non essential. Liquid at room temperature but if refrigerated should become somewhat solid. Found in olive oil, olives and oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated fat: very unstable, goes rancid easily, never heat them or cook with them. Always in a liquid state, even if refrigerated. Two of these are considered essential meaning we have to get them from the diet. Flax and other seeds, nuts and fish and fish oil. Omega 6 and 3 are from these types of fats.
All fats and oils are a combination of these three types of fats. They are categorized by which fat is most prevalent.
We need all three types of these fats in order to have proper function in the body and to make sure that we can manage any inflammation in the body.
We must have good digestion, proper liver function, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E and C in order to have proper repair of inflammation in the body.
Consume a mixture of about 30% saturated fat, 10% polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 and 6) and 60% monounsaturated fats like olive oil as a very general guideline:
Animal fats from pastured, well raised animals if possible
High quality butter such as Kerry Gold, Organic Valley or a locally made butter
Ghee which is the butter fat with the whey removed- used in Indian cooking a lot
Coconut or Palm Oils
Cold Pressed extra virgin olive oil
Other cold pressed oils from nuts or seeds
Cold pressed oils are expensive and more difficult to make. They are the most fragile oils as they are easily damaged by light and heat. They are the seed oils and oils made from nuts. Canola oil is a seed oil and is processed with high heat, chemicals and is a rancid and damaged oil before it hits the grocery store shelves where it then sits on a shelf exposed to light all day long- remember seed oils are polyunsaturated and are damaged by light and heat.
Avoid hydrogenated fats, partially hydrogenated fats and those highly processed “vegetable” oils and of course trans fats.
Other things that can be helpful:
Vitamin C can help the body repair itself when under stress or when other factors are present that might otherwise cause damage to the lining of the blood vessels. Best choice is whole foods that are high in vitamin C (listed in order from highest amount of vitamin C per serving to lowest) like papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe and cauliflower.
Staying well hydrated will keep your blood free flowing and thinner. The thicker and more viscous your blood is, the more damage can be done to the lining of your blood vessels because there is more friction. Aim for about half your body weight in ounces a day but no more than 100 oz a day. That is a lot of water and even I find it tough to get that much water in each day.
Cardio Protective Nutrition:
Consuming and digesting animal proteins which are the best source of vitamins A, D and the B vitamins.
Again, vitamin C
Potassium- helps us maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruits and veggies in general but Swiss Chard has 1000mg of potassium per serving. Recommended amount is 4700mg per day.
Fill your dinner plate (and lunch and breakfast plate) with vegetables, especially cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts
Consume wild caught fish, pastured eggs
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, miso or natto
Lastly, high cholesterol in the elderly population is associated with longer life and life expectancy in general increases with higher cholesterol. Cholesterol is protective against infections, lower cholesterol levels associated with memory issues.
Okay. That is it for today. Thanks for listening. Please leave me a rating and review on iTunes so more people can find the podcast. Let’s get as many people as possible the information they need to heal.
Have a question or comment about today’s episode? Head on over to helpforhashimotos.com and ask it on this weeks episode blog post. Search for Episode 37 and you will find a transcript of todays episode.
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I’m taking a facebook break. I will be checking in to see if anyone wants to join the Help For Hashimoto’s facebook group but beyond that I am trying to stay off it. I’m not a fan of putting out a bunch of content there when Facebook owns it all.
I am focusing more of my energy on putting really good content out in my newsletter and here on the podcast so if you have a topic you want covered contact me through my website.
I forgot again to send the lunch ideas in my newsletter. I’m so sorry about that. I was pretty stressed out last week with lack of sleep and worrying about passing the grad school entrance exam. I got a middle of the road score which is what my school was looking for so it looks like I’m going back to school at almost 48. Am I crazy? I don’t know. I am little scared though. it is kind of daunting to be a student at my age. I am also freaking excited to learn about functional medicine! More excited than scared the more I think about it. Maybe it will be fun for you all to learn along side me!
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All right, see you next week! Take care!