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December 24, 2022 6 min read

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common health issue that affects millions of people around the world. It's often associated with genetics and lifestyle - from what we eat to how we exercise. But for some people, their hypertension may come from an unexpected source: their thyroid.

That's right - there's a link between hypothyroidism and high blood pressure. If you're worried about your health, it's important to understand how they relate to each other. So let's dive in and explore the connection between thyroid problems and high blood pressure!

What is high blood pressure?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a measurement of the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries. While it's normal for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, people with hypertension have consistently high readings. If left unchecked, hypertension can lead to an increased risk of serious health problems like cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Primary and secondary hypertension

Did you know that there are two types of hypertension? Primary or essential hypertension is the most common type and occurs when the cause is unknown. Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is caused by another underlying medical condition, such as cardiovascular problems or renal disease.

It's important to note that hypertension can affect anyone, including pregnant women. In fact, pregnancy-induced hypertension, also known as preeclampsia, is a serious condition that can occur during pregnancy and can lead to serious complications for both the mother and the baby if left untreated.

The good news is that hypertension, whether primary or secondary, can often be managed through treatment of the underlying cause and lifestyle changes. By effectively treating conditions like heart disease, kidney failure, and cancer, the occurrence of hypertension can be reduced. So if you're dealing with hypertension, don't hesitate to work with your healthcare provider to find a treatment plan that works for you. Together, you can help keep your blood pressure in check and lower your risk of serious complications.

Blood pressure readings

There are different levels of blood pressure readings, according to the American Heart Association. These include:

  1. Normal blood pressure: readings of less than 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury (20/80 mm Hg) are considered normal. If your numbers fall within this range, it's important to continue practicing heart-healthy behaviors like maintaining a balanced diet and getting regular physical activity.

  2. Elevated: when the diastolic blood pressure is less than 80 mm Hg, and the systolic blood pressure number is 120-129, the blood pressure is considered high. If left unchecked, people with elevated blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing full-blown hypertension.

  3. Stage 1 hypertension: if your blood pressure consistently falls between 130 and 139 and is between 80 and 89 on the diastolic side, you have stage 1 hypertension. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes in addition to medication to bring it under control.

  4. Stage 2 hypertension: if your blood pressure is consistently at or above 140/90 mm Hg for an extended period of time, you have stage 2 hypertension. Your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes and medication to manage this stage of hypertension.

  5. Hypertensive emergency: if your blood pressure suddenly rises above 180/120 mm Hg and you're experiencing symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or difficulty speaking, you may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. In this case, you should seek medical attention immediately.

It's important to monitor your blood pressure regularly and work with your healthcare provider to manage it. By taking steps to keep your blood pressure in check, you can lower your risk of serious health complications.

 What's the connection between high blood pressure and thyroid hormone?

What's the connection between high blood pressure and thyroid hormone?

The thyroid gland, which is located at the base of the throat in the shape of a butterfly, produces thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones that regulate your metabolism. The thyroid hormone influences almost every organ in your body, including your heartbeat and your blood pressure. That's why when your thyroid gland doesn't function properly, you might experience problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Hypertension is found in around 3% of people who have thyroid disease. This is called secondary hypertension, which is high blood pressure that's caused by another medical condition. In this case, it's caused by abnormal thyroid function.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the two main types of thyroid disease, but they can both lead to high blood pressure in different ways. Here's how:

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and elevated blood pressure

Hyperthyroidism is a thyroid disease that occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much hormone. Having too much thyroid hormone than your body requires increases your heart rate, causing it to work harder. It may also trigger atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart. Plus, the condition raises blood pressure significantly.

If you have clogged and stiff heart arteries, the increased heartbeat and high blood pressure due to excess thyroid hormone may result in angina or chest pain.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and elevated blood pressure

An underactive thyroid, more often called hypothyroidism, is the more common thyroid disease. While hyperthyroidism causes you to have excess thyroid hormone, hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid doesn't produce and release enough of it. When this happens, you'll experience symptoms like weight gain, constipation, and attention issues.

Hypothyroidism also slows your heart rate and reduces your heart's ability to pump blood. It also increases the stiffness of blood vessels, which forces your blood pressure to increase in order to circulate blood throughout your body.

How do you know if your high blood pressure is caused by thyroid problems?

Knowing if your high blood pressure is caused by thyroid problems like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can be a tricky business. The first way to know is to look at the other common symptoms of thyroid problems. This usually includes weight changes - either gaining or losing weight unexpectedly - as well as fatigue and sensitivity to temperature shifts; feeling too hot all the time could indicate a potential issue. Additionally, mood swings and difficulty focusing are two other common signs that something might be off balance in terms of your thyroid function. Sometimes, high blood pressure that persists even with blood pressure medication may also indicate that you have secondary hypertension caused by another disease.

However, symptoms and signs alone cannot determine if you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. To accurately diagnose what is going on with your thyroid, your doctor will likely order one or more blood tests. These may include thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T4, T3, and thyroid antibody tests.

Your doctor will like to check your TSH first. TSH is a hormone made in the pituitary gland that is responsible for regulating how much T4 and T3 hormones your thyroid needs to produce and release. It's basically like a manager who tells your thyroid gland what to do.

A high TSH level usually indicates hypothyroidism, while a low TSH level means you may have hyperthyroidism.

Can thyroid medication help treat hypertension due to hypothyroidism?

If your high blood pressure occurs because your thyroid hormone levels are too low, your doctor may recommend thyroid hormone replacement medication. This medication helps restore your thyroid hormone levels by replacing the amount of hormone your body is missing. Thus, helping you get normal thyroid function and alleviate symptoms of hypothyroidism, including high blood pressure.

Taking the right dose is vital when taking thyroid hormone replacement medication if hypertension is present. This is because taking more thyroid medication than you need can cause heart palpitations and increase your blood pressure instead of lowering it. You usually have to start with a low dose of thyroid medication, then increase it gradually over time until you don't experience any symptoms anymore. To determine whether you're taking the optimal dose, your doctor may order blood tests.

Which thyroid hormone replacement medication is better?

There are two main types of thyroid hormone replacement medication: levothyroxine and natural desiccated thyroid (NDT).

Levothyroxine, such as Synthroid and Unithroid, is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone T4. It's the standard treatment of hypothyroidism, so your doctor will likely prescribe it to you.

NDT, on the other hand, is a natural form of thyroid hormone made from dried porcine (pig) thyroid glands. It contains a combination of T4, T3, and other thyroid hormones like Calcitonin, which some people find to be more effective at relieving hypothyroidism symptoms like high blood pressure compared to levothyroxine. Moreover, many people prefer NDT because it's natural. Some brands of NDT supplements, like VitaliThy, are even free of common allergens.

It's important to note that everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Whether you prefer levothyroxine or NDT, the most important thing is to take the right dose.

Do you need blood pressure medications?

Taking blood pressure medications, especially one that contains beta-blockers, for those struggling with hypothyroidism is not recommended. This is because a beta-blocker can affect your thyroid negatively and make you feel even worse.

The best way to treat secondary hypertension due to hypothyroidism is to treat the underlying cause: not enough thyroid hormone in your body.

Can lifestyle changes help manage blood pressure due to hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism-related high blood pressure can be treated, in part, by making a few adjustments to one's lifestyle. In addition to boosting your thyroid health with thyroid hormone replacement like VitaliThy, other lifestyle adjustments may help lower blood pressure, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management, and better sleep.

Remember, small changes to your lifestyle can lead to big improvements in your thyroid health and help you control blood pressure. So don't be afraid to make positive changes and work with your doctor to manage your hypothyroidism and high blood pressure.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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