Why is my Blood Pressure high? After all I am doing everything right!
So you are getting plenty of exercise and eating a heathy diet, you are striving to find balance in your life and manage day to day stresses … and yet your blood pressure is still high!
How frustrating is that!!
Well, there may very well be a factor at play which at first may not seem to be particularly related to hypertension but which can have a serious impact on your blood pressure – and your overall health – if it is not attended to.
One study into this issue found that a whopping 13 million Americans may actually be suffering from this condition and may not be aware that they have a problem!!
So what is this health issue which may be adversely affecting your blood pressure?
YOUR THYROID GLAND
How are the Thyroid Gland and Blood Pressure connected?
Before looking specifically at this question, I am going to do a quick overview on the role of the thyroid in maintaining healthy body function, notably where it concerns the cardiovascular system.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped endocrine gland which is located in front of the neck just below the Adam’s Apple (see diagram opposite). The role of the thyroid in proper cardiovascular functioning is to secrete a hormone – T3 or Triiodothyronine which is then intricately (both directly and indirectly) involved in signalling the heart when to pump faster, or the blood vessels when to dilate or constrict.
Thyroid hormones also play a role in the body’s metabolic rate which basically affects all body tissues. Appetite, absorption of substances and the flow-through rate in the gut are all influenced by these hormones secreted by the Thyroid Gland.
Consequently a proper functioning Thyroid is essential for a proper functioning cardiovascular system.
Given this information then, it is hardly surprising to see that when the Thyroid is not working optimally the cardiovascular system may become compromised. And one of the common indicators of a thyroid which is not functioning properly is – yes, you guessed it – High Blood Pressure.
Thus we have a situation where the development of hypertension is being caused by an underlying medical condition which is known as Secondary Hypertension.. And this can be true of both an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), or an underactive one (hypothyroidism)!
Hyperthyroidism versus Hypothyroidism – which is more prevalent?
Out of the two conditions where the thyroid is out of balance, hypothyroidism – in which the thyroid is under-functioning – is the more common condition.
Whilst the type of hypothyroidism caused by an auto-immune response whereby the body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland and damages the gland’s ability to release the required thyroid hormones is quite common, there are also other reasons for hypothyroidism, including iodine deficiency and medication side effects, particularly from lithium, amiodarone and some medications used for cancer treatments.
Typical Symptoms of Hypothyroidism can include, and may be seen as results some of the body’s functions slowing down:
- Loss of energy, fatigue
- Feeling cold
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair loss
- Mild weight gain
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
It is worth noting that thyroidism is often a creeping type of condition which may take many years to fully develop, and as such many of the above noted symptoms may not be immediately apparent.
Types of Thyroid blood tests
The encouraging news is that testing for a thyroid problem is as simple as giving a blood sample and having it tested for TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.
Of note this is produced in the pituitary gland and signals the thyroid how much hormone (T4) to release, so if this test comes back out of balance it could also mean that there may be a problem with the pituitary gland.
The other test for thyroid function is the T4 blood test which looks at the amount of Thyroxine (T4) the gland itself produces.
Treatment of an underactive thyroid is to use synthetically produced thyroid hormone – and the one most commonly prescribed is Levothyroxine. The original synthetic Thyroxine has been around for over 90 years having been isolated by 2 British Chemists in the 1920’s – Sir Charles Harrington and George Barger.
And the good thing about all this is that once the thyroid levels are back in balance, then the accompanying high blood pressure usually returns to more normal levels.
In fact there is a study conducted by Marcisz C, Jonderko G, Kucharz E. in 2002 which showed that patients with hyperthyroidism, when initially examined prior to the hormonal treatments had higher systolic BP readings than their normal functioning thyroid counterparts. However after treatment with thyroid hormone therapy the BP readings of the test group returned to normal levels.
Supporting the Thyroid Gland naturally
Now we have seen the importance of a properly functioning thyroid gland in helping to maintain balanced blood pressure, what can you do to help support a healthy thyroid? Well, there are a number of things which may help.
1. Ensure that you are getting enough IODINE in your diet*. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones and a deficiency of Iodine can lead to the development of hypothyroidism. So it’s important to make sure that your diet contains enough Iodine. It is interesting to note that in Japan where the diet consists of a high amount of seafood and “sea vegetables” like kelp, the incidence of thyroid disease is much lower than in the Western World.
2. Get your Vitamin D levels checked. Research over the last couple of decades has found that people with low thyroid levels also have low Vitamin D levels. And those of us living in more northerly locales tend to have an issue with Vitamin D over the winter months. So it is important to ensure that your Vitamin D levels are maximized in order to protect your thyroid health. Taking 1000IU – 2000IU of Vitamin D daily is recommended during the winter when the amount and strength of sunlight is not available to naturally provide the body’s Vitamin D requirements.
3. Following a nutritious and healthy Diet Plan. This one will come as no surprise, since one of the fundamentals of helping to manage Blood Pressure naturally is to adopt a healthy Diet plan anyhow, such as the DASH Diet – (CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION Re DASH Diet)
The removal of unhealthy nutrition from your diet, such as junk food, processed foods and fast food, and the reduction in intake of refined salt and sugars, will not only help with BP control but will also ensure that the Thyroid gets the nutrients and nourishment it needs to function properly. Selenium, Vitamin A and Iron are all important to healthy functioning Thyroid Gland, and a poor diet can often lead to deficiencies in such critical Vitamins and Minerals.
4. Exercise, Activity and Movement! This is another Biggie!! The body is designed to move and, without sufficient regular activity, optimal circulation of oxygen to all vital organs will also suffer. Exercise promotes healthy ageing! The goal is to work regular activity of all sorts into your lifestyle, rather than just visiting the gym for an hour each day and thinking that is enough movement for one day…. it just isn’t!!
The thyroid gland, and the hormones it secretes, play an important role in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, and over- or underactive thyroid gland conditions have now been shown to contribute to hypertension problems. Therefore balancing the thyroid hormones may very well help to regulate blood pressure.
So, if you have high blood pressure, and are not sure why – especially if you are already living a healthy lifestyle – it is well worth it to go and have your thyroid hormones checked out.
I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who has a thyroid condition and whether or not they are also dealing with high blood pressure issues, and what kind of natural remedies they are using to help both. Please feel free to comment below!