High Cholesterol By Itself Is A Warning Sign Of Hypothyroidism
Your thyroid gland is one of the primary controllers of cholesterol in your body.;
What does this mean?
When there is a problem in your thyroid gland it will manifest as a problem in your cholesterol level.;
The bigger the problem in your thyroid the bigger the change in your cholesterol.;
Thyroid hormone, specifically the most powerful thyroid hormone T3, regulates an enzyme known as HMG-CoA reductase;.;
This is the SAME enzyme that medications like statins, like Lipitor, interfere with.;
But thyroid hormone doesn’t just stop there.;
It also regulates HDL metabolism, LPL, VLDL, and triglyceride metabolism.;
You don’t have to know the specifics but you should know that changes in your thyroid can dramatically impact your cholesterol at many levels.;
Several studies have shown that an abnormal TSH, even in the upper level of what is considered “normal”, increases the risk that you will have high cholesterol.;
What does this mean for you?
If you have high cholesterol the FIRST thing that you should look at is your thyroid level as the primary CAUSE of that problem.;
Does it mean that your thyroid is always the cause of high cholesterol levels?
Not necessarily, but you can’t just assume that it isn’t.;
Every patient with high cholesterol should undergo screening for low thyroid the CORRECT way .;
If your doctor hasn’t done that, and you are currently taking a medication for high cholesterol, you should go back immediately and get tested.;
Can A Thyroid Problem Cause High Cholesterol
Despite your best efforts to eat well and stay active studies show an underactive thyroid can be a risk factor for developing high cholesterol.
Studies show thyroid dysfunction has an adverse effect on proper cholesterol metabolism. As a result its common for those with hypothyroidism to have problems with raised cholesterol.
The Dangers Of Statins In People With Thyroid Dysfunction
If youve been following my work for a while, you probably know my opinion of statin drugs. Here are just a few of the articles Ive written on statins:
But it turns out that statin use is particularly concerning when the cause of high cholesterol is poor thyroid function. This is due to the effects of statins on creatine kinase levels.
Creatine kinase is an enzyme expressed in many different tissues throughout the body, though its probably most well-known for its action in muscle cells. CK is responsible for adding a phosphate to creatine to form phosphocreatine, which serves as an energy reservoir and allows for the quick release of energy in times of need.
Both statins and hypothyroidism result in CK release into the blood, and the cumulative effect is severe CK elevation . This can potentially amplify the adverse side effects of statins.
Yet, in reviewing the relevant medical records of 77 patients treated receiving statins in a hospital, a team of medical researchers discovered that only 23 percent of patients had received a thyroid panel before beginning statin treatment. Worse yet, 12 percent of patients with overt hypothyroidism received statins without receiving a thyroid panel or hypothyroid diagnosis .
The authors commented on their findings, emphasizing the need for routine thyroid screening in patients with lipid abnormalities:
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How The Thyroid Regulates Lipid Metabolism
Fair warning, this section contains the nitty gritty details of lipid metabolism. If youre not in the mood for a physiology lesson, you can skip on to the next section!
Thyroid hormones regulate cholesterol synthesis
You may have heard that dietary cholesterol doesnt have much impact on blood levels of cholesterol. This is because cholesterol is also synthesized by the liver. This process is tightly regulated by several hormones, including thyroid hormones. TSH increases the expression and activity of an enzyme called HMG CoA reductase, which controls the rate of cholesterol synthesis . This means that hypothyroidism increases the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver. This cholesterol is then packaged with triglycerides into VLDL particles, which are shipped out to the bloodstream.
Thyroid hormones affect lipoprotein lipase
VLDL particles travel through the bloodstream until they reach the small blood vessel beds, where they encounter an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase . This enzyme breaks down the triglycerides in the VLDL particle into fatty acids, which are taken up by adipose, heart, and muscle cells. T3 stimulates LPL to increase this breakdown of triglyceride-rich VLDL . Eventually, the cholesterol content of the lipoprotein becomes higher than the triglyceride content, and these particles become LDL.
Thyroid hormones increase LDL particle uptake
Thyroid hormones affect LDL particle oxidation
Why Thyroid And Cholesterol Are Linked
Thyroid hormones have several jobs. One is controlling how your body uses cholesterol and other lipids . Another is helping your liver produce fatty acids, which store energy for you to use later.
When thyroid hormones are out of whack, it affects all these processes. Getting them in balance helps things work right again.
Verywell / Emily Roberts
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Triglyceride Remnants Residual Cvd Risk And Thyroid Hormone
In spite of the fact that LDLC is the primary lipid target for cardiovascular disease prevention, other lipid measures should be undertaken to assess individuals with well controlled LDL-C levels who are still exposed to high residual risk of CVD which is the term used to define the CVD risk that remains despite intensive statin treatment . Residual CVD risk is mainly determined by hypertriglyceridemia, elevated small dense LDL particles, reduced HDL-C and HDL particle numbers, increased triglyceride rich lipoproteins or remnant lipoproteins and postprandial hyperlipidemia, also known collectively as the atherogenic dyslipidemia complex . Markers of residual risk include a number of biochemical parameters, such as non-HDL-C, that reflect the cholesterol content of RLPs , as previously shown in diabetic patients . RLPs increase intimal cholesterol deposition and activate several proinflammatory, proapoptotic and procoagulant pathways . Medium-sized TG-rich RLPs, present in mild to moderate hypertriglyceridemia, can enter the arterial wall and cause atherosclerosis . Indeed, clinical conditions related to high CVD risk, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus , are associated with RLPs accumulation and elevated inflammatory markers which remain despite statin treatment .
Other Causes Of High Cholesterol
People are often surprised to find out they have high cholesterol or triglycerides in their blood.High levels of blood fats; which include cholesterol and triglycerides; can have many causes. These include your lifestyle,;genes, age, gender and ethnic background;and these can all add up. Here you can take a look at some of the lesser-known causes, which include other health problems and certain medicines. Doctors might call these ‘secondary causes’ of high cholesterol.
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Benefits Of Pro Omega
Essential Fatty Acids are nutritional cornerstones of human health. Two major families of fats are comprised under this designation, omegas 3 and 6. They are deemed essential because we need them for proper healthmuch like certain vitamins and mineralsbut cannot produce them on our own. We must therefore consume these fats through diet or supplementation.
Most people associate omega-3s with cardiovascular health, but their benefits go far beyond the heart. The two main omega-3seicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid promote a healthy immune response that is behind the relief of many chronic conditions but that is too often inhibited by poor nutrition. Extensive research has documented the health benefits of EPA and DHA, which include not only a healthy heart, but brain and cognitive function, joint mobility, eye health, pregnancy and lactation, healthy skin and hair, and a normally functioning immune response.
Low Thyroid & High Cholesterol
One measurement of thyroid function is a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone . Made by a small gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary, TSH tells your thyroid how hard to work.
High TSH levels mean you have an underactive thyroid. Symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Slow heart rate
Studies show that people with high TSH levels have much higher total cholesterol and LDL levels than people with normal thyroid tests.
Any of these can be fatal.
High cholesterol raises heart disease and stroke risk even more.
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Should You Be Worried About Cholesterol
Cholesterol is often discussed in terms of heart disease, but did you know cholesterol is an essential compound naturally produced by your body?
In fact, cholesterol supports many processes within the body. This includes;
- Building and repairing cells.
- Manufacturing steroid hormones .
- Producing bile to assist fat digestion.
- Absorption of your fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K.
- Synthesizing the active form of vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
- Producing myelin, a specialised membrane that insulates and protects your nerve fibres.
Here’s One Surprising Reason Why Your Cholesterol Is High
Surprise: it’s that butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your throatyour thyroid!
Your thyroid is responsible for releasing hormones that control metabolism, which govern how your body uses energy. Your thyroid hormones also regulate other vital functions like breathing, body weight, body temperature, heart rate and nervous system functioning. Here’s a lesser-known fact: a growing body of research points to overt and subclinical hypothyroidism can increase your risk for high cholesterol.
Sometimes the thyroid under or over-produces thyroid hormonehypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism respectivelywhich can wreak havoc on your system in various ways.
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Hyperthyroidism: Excess Thyroid Hormone
The opposite problem, hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid hormone, is far less common, affecting less than 1% of the population. But it, too, can harm the heart.
The classic symptoms include sleeplessness, heat intolerance, excess sweating, weight loss, extreme hunger, and loose bowels. Excess thyroid hormone also causes the heart to beat harder and faster and may trigger abnormal heart rhythms. One is atrial fibrillation, a disorganized rhythm in the heart’s upper chambers. A related symptom is palpitations, a sudden awareness of your heartbeat. People with hyperthyroidism may also have high blood pressure. In a person with clogged, stiff heart arteries, the combination of a forceful heartbeat and elevated blood pressure may lead to chest pain or angina.
What Can I Do
As explained above, if thyroid levels arent optimised, which is particularly common when on T4-only medications as not all thyroid patients convert T4 to T3;effectively, this can lead to ongoing issues and symptoms, such as high cholesterol.
The doctor that headed the research mentioned above, also suggested this;
Its very well established that untreated hypothyroidism causes your cholesterol level to be higher, McAninch said. The study points us to the conclusion that levothyroxine therapy may not truly be normalizing these people, who are using LT4 to replicate adequate thyroid function.
If your levels still remain high after optimising treatment, there are other things you can do to try and lower them.
Diet can play a big part, by reducing the amount of high-cholesterol foods you eat and increasing low-saturated fat and;high fibre foods. You could also introduce food that specifically acts to lower cholesterol levels, such as spreads that contain sterols or stanols.
Omega 3 also increases good HDL cholesterol and Omega 6 lowers bad LDL cholesterol. So exploring supplementing these or increasing them in your diet may also help. However, those on blood thinning medications are advised not to take Omega 6 or Omega 3 supplements as they can increase the risk of bleeding. Omega 6 can be found naturally in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, meat and eggs. Omega 3 can be found in soybean, rapeseed and flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and oily fish.
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Cholesterol Is Not The Cause Of Heart Disease
The truth is that hypothyroidism was first discovered to be the cause of heart attacks in 1890.
And the hypothyroidism and cholesterol connection was established back in the 1930s.
Even research today continues to prove what we have already known for well over 100 years now.
For example, take a look at the graph below.
This data was taken directly from the HUNT Study, the largest population-based heart disease study ever conducted.
And it shows very clearly that your bad cholesterol rises in direct correlation to your thyroid function.
Image Source: Eur J Endocrinol February 1, 2007 156 181-186
But this isnt something youll ever hear from your doctor.
And thats because the medical community and pharmaceutical industry has spent the past 60 years trying to convict cholesterol for the deaths of over a half a million people every single year.
But time and time again all charges against cholesterol have been dropped.
Starting in the 1950s, so called heart healthy polyunsaturated fats were recommended after discovering that they could lower cholesterol.
This was great until further research proved the opposite and showed that those heart healthy fats actually increased your risk of heart disease.
Not only that, but research shows that polyunsaturated fats are extremely thyroid suppressive as they block every part of your Thyroid Hormone Pathway.
Then in the 1970s, the US declared war on high cholesterol foods and promoted a low cholesterol diet.
Why Fat May Not Be To Blame
For years, saturated fats were seen as the cause of cardiovascular issues and increasing the risk for high cholesterol and heart disease, however, as it turns out sugar may be the real culprit here and another underlying cause of cholesterol issues.
Over the past couple of years, its become apparent that large sugar companies such as the Sugar Association have paid Harvard scientists large amounts of money to publish reviews on the research of sugar, fat, and heart disease. The sugar group handpicked the articles published and chose the ones that minimized the link between sugar, and its connection to heart health, and instead focused on the articles that negatively portrayed fats connection to heart health. These reports date back nearly 50 years, but its reported that the food industry still influences nutrition science today. We need to be aware that some reports may not be as transparent as one would think.
This plays an important role in understanding the connection between fat, sugar, and high cholesterol because the debate when it comes to these two food sources remains a discussion today. For years, Americans were urged to consume a low-fat diet in an attempt to promote heart health. However, many of these low-fat foods are loaded with sugar and only increase the prevalence of obesity and heart disease.
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Why Lowering Your Bad Cholesterol Is Bad For Your Thyroid
As mentioned previously, hypothyroidism and cholesterol are directly related especially bad cholesterol.
The more hypothyroid you become, the higher your cholesterol rises.
This is why long before modern day thyroid tests were developed, doctors were trained to test for elevated cholesterol as an indicator of hypothyroidism.
This is because you need thyroid hormone to use cholesterol efficiently.
Your body requires cholesterol, thyroid hormone , and Vitamin A to produce all of your protective steroidal hormones including
But when youre hypothyroid and lack thyroid hormone, you cant convert cholesterol into these important hormones and so cholesterol rises accordingly.
Treating thyroid patients with T3 can quickly lower cholesterol levels back down to normal because your body is actually using the cholesterol and increasing production of these hormones.
Yet, artificially lowering cholesterol through diet, drugs, supplements, or otherwise when your body still cant use that cholesterol is very dangerous
because it further lowers your levels of these protective steroidal hormones.
And without these essential hormones, youll always be hypothyroid.
Take progesterone for example.
Progesterone plays an important role in activating the enzymes that allow your thyroid gland to release thyroid hormone into your bloodstream.
Progesterone deficiency alone is a very common cause of hypothyroidism today.
The Various Mechanisms Connecting Thyroid Hormone To Lipids
Cholesterol is generated in the liver by the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA and is transported through the circulation by lipoproteins, these being classified according to their size and density. Among the various lipoprotein subfractions, LDL-C has attracted much attention due to its atherogenicity, susceptibility to oxidation and potential to predict risk for CHD. Meanwhile, also of interest is high-density lipoprotein cholesterol , due to its mediation of cholesterol reverse transport from the circulation to the liver and the cardiovascular protective effects that it exerts. Thyroid hormone is the main regulator of lipid metabolism by stimulating the mobilization and degradation of lipids as well as de novo fatty acid synthesis in the liver . T3 actions are mediated via modulation of gene expression and cell signaling pathways, while cholesterol synthesis is mediated by the sensing of intracellular cholesterol in the endoplasmic reticulum via sterol regulatory element binding proteins 1 and2, the transcription factor that positively regulates the expression of LDL receptor and cholesterol synthesis . After cleavage by specific proteases, SREBP migrates to the nucleus and acts as a transcription factor binding to the sterol regulatory element which stimulates the transcription of the LDLR and HMG-CoA reductase genes.
The effects of thyroid hormone on the various fractions of lipids are presented in Table 1.
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The Association Between Thyroid Hormone Levels And Cholesterol
Today, a PubMed search for thyroid and cholesterol yields more than 3,000 articlesyet few people, and even few doctors, are aware of how various thyroid conditions can impact cholesterol levels.
Lets review the four major types and how they impact basic cholesterol measurements:
Hypothyroidism: People with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, often have increased levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and may have elevated triglyceride levels as well . Thyroid medication can significantly improve lipid profiles. A study in newly diagnosed hypothyroid patients found that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels decreased after T4 treatment. Those with higher TSH levels at baseline saw a more dramatic reduction in cholesterol levels with T4 therapy .
Subclinical hypothyroidism: Subclinical hypothyroidism is characterized by elevated serum TSH with normal levels of free T4 and free T3. Subclinical hypothyroidism is far more common than overt hypothyroidism and may affect up to 9 percent of the population . Studies are mixed on the effect of;subclinical hypothyroidism on lipid profiles, but even within the normal range of values, increasing TSH is associated with an increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol . One systematic review found that T4 substitution therapy on average resulted in an eight mg/dL decrease in total cholesterol and a 10 mg/dL decrease in LDL cholesterol in people with;subclinical hypothyroidism .