Closer to Your Heart Than You Think – The Connection Between Thyroid Function and Heart Attacks

The Profile of a Heart Attack

Heart attack is a popular term used by regular people to refer to what medical science specifically calls a myocardial infarction. It could also be used to denote any of several types of acute episodes of ischemic heart disease.

Ischemic heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in Western culture. It results from insufficient coronary blood flow, which means that the blood supply of your heart is cut off or severely impaired. Immediately after blocking the coronary arteries, blood flow beyond the occlusion is stopped. When this happens, the affected area is said to be infarcted and receives little to no blood flow. The cardiac muscle then suffers from oxygen and nutrient deprivation and is rendered incapable of sustaining normal cardiac function. The whole process is called a myocardial infarction.

What Causes Ischemic Heart Disease?

Ischemic heart disease can be caused by an increased demand of the body for oxygen or diminished oxygen blood transport. Most commonly, IHD is caused by a decrease in coronary blood flow due to narrowing or destruction of the walls of the coronary arteries as in atherosclerosis.

In atherosclerosis, there is an accumulation or formation of deposits of yellowish plaques called atheromas containing cholesterol, lipoid material, and lipophages in the walls of the arteries. These deposits cause the diameter of the artery to narrow as they accumulate until only little or no amount of blood flows through the lumen at all, causing ischemia or deprivation of the arteries.

Thyroid Function in Fat Metabolism

The thyroid gland, located just below the larynx or the voicebox, secretes two hormones called thyroxine or T4 and triiodothyronine or T3. These two hormones raise almost all aspects of fat metabolism in the body, especially T3. Lipids, especially, are mobilized from fat tissue rapidly so that fat stores in the body are depleted to a certain extent.

Thyroid hormones also facilitate the excretion of cholesterol through the bile. Increased amounts of thyroid hormones cause the cholesterol circulating in the plasma of the blood to be secreted into the bile, which can then be removed totally from the body when the bile is excreted through the feces.

Hypothyroidism and Atherosclerosis

Lack of thyroid hormone consequently raises the amount of cholesterol in the blood because fat and cholesterol metabolism is slowed down and there is a decreased rate in the secretion of cholesterol into the bile for excretion. Increase in blood cholesterol predisposes a person to atherosclerosis because the increased amount of cholesterol in the blood then forms plaques in arterial walls, the atheromas.

Hypothyroid patients usually develop atherosclerosis because of their decreased levels of thyroid hormone. This condition, in turn, could result in coronary artery disease, leading to heart attack, and possibly, early death.

Some people may be genetically predisposed to suffer a heart attack. For some, it is the kind of life they lead that could cause them to suffer a heart attack in the future. But with exercise and proper nutrition as well as a vigilant eye on all other aspects of health, heart attacks can be prevented from happening.