Did you know January is Thyroid Awareness Month? How is your thyroid health? Have you ever had yours checked? Don’t worry if you are unsure of the answers to those questions. We have some simple answers to put you on track to a healthy thyroid.
What is a thyroid?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It helps control the function of many important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. It mostly helps to set the metabolism.
“An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.” – American Thyroid Association
There are 2 types of thyroid diseases.
This disease refers to an overactive thyroid gland, which produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms include:
- Enlarged thyroid
- Rapid heart rate
- Nervous, anxious or irritable behavior
- Trembling hands
- Unexplained weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Increased sweating
- Hair loss
- Decreased menstrual flow or impaired fertility
This disease revers to the under active thyroid gland, which produces less than the normal amount of thyroid hormone. This slows metabolism and the following may occur:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased cholesterol
- Intolerance to cold
- A heavier menstrual flow
Risk factors for thyroid disease include.
- Being female – Women are five to eight times more likely to suffer from a thyroid disorder than men are.
- Age – Thy Thyroid Foundation of America recommends that women get annual thyroid hormone level tests yearly starting at age 50. Men should as well beginning at age 60.
- A family history – If the disease runs in the family, testing every five years after age 35 is recommended.
- Pregnancy – Thyroid conditions can arise after giving birth.
What can you do?
A healthy thyroid starts with early detection. Annual checkups and preventive visits are usually covered by your health insurance at no cost or a low copay to you. If a problem with your thyroid is detected, it can usually be treated with prescription drugs, radioactive iodine therapy and/or surgery. Together you and your doctor can determine the best treatment for your specific situation.
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