Hypothyroidism and Cholesterol Buildup: Not a pretty picture
When my mother was in her late 60’s, she found herself with a problem that no one in our family history had to this degree: high levels of cholesterol and sticky plaque buildup in her heart arteries. All the latter was making it harder to move blood around and raising her risk of a heart attack. What is the world caused this? Did it have anything to do with her years of poorly treated hypothyroidism on Synthroid?
Cholesterol is not a bad guy….
Cholesterol, a “steroid alcohol” which is a sub-group of steroids, is a waxy substance made naturally and mostly in your liver (around 75%, say some literature), and also comes from certain foods you eat like meats and certain dairy products. Cholesterol is important for the very structure of all your cells, besides being a building block for other parts of our bodies. i.e. it’s a precursor to all your sex hormones (like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, etc) and adrenal hormones. It’s also a precursor for bile, which you need to assist your body in digestion.
Cholesterol is transported around your body by lipoproteins–like little cars which carry the cholesterol through the blood stream so that other cells can use the fatty waxy substances for their own structure and needs. And there are two types of these lipoprotein carriers: LDL (low density lipos) and HDL (high density lipos). See more below.
But cholesterol can certainly become bad, especially for thyroid patients….
If cholesterol is carried by mostly LDL carriers, they will end up depositing cholesterol on the walls of your arteries, contributing to arterial plaque and thus clogging, and raising the risk of heart problems or a stroke.
If cholesterol is carried by more HDL carriers, they will hang tight to the cholesterol it’s carrying around, and can also snatch up the LDL cholesterol like a scavenger, where the liver will break it down and remove it from your body.
And sadly, if we are in an undiagnosed hypothyroid state, or a poorly treated hypothyroid state with T4-only medications like Levo, Synthroid, etc, we will tend to see a marked increase in the unhelpful carriers i.e. the low-density lipoproteins (LDL)1..thus, problems.
Granted, there can be inherited reasons for families to pass down the high cholesterol problem. My husband’s familyl is one of those. Additionally, just growing older can raise cholesterol. But being undiagnosed or poorly treated hypothyroid simply makes the problem much worse!
What to do about rising cholesterol
First and foremost, informed thyroid patients found out that moving over to a much better treatment, and finding our unique optimal dose, consistently lowers our cholesterol!! The better treatment is Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT), a treatment which has been around over 110 years and gives us all five thyroid hormones, not just one like T4-only medications do.
Does that seem to easy of an answer? Might seem that way. But it’s a fact!! Over the years, patients who moved over to NDT and found their optimal dose (in the presence of good cortisol and iron levels, and which removed all symptoms) consistently reported a lowering of their cholesterol. It’s been uncanny.
Even adding synthetic T3 to your synthetic T4, and finding an optimal amount (which usually puts our free T3 towards the top of the range) can help achieve, this, we’ve noted.
See the green graphic on the following page to understand what an optimal dose is, say patients: stopthethyroidmadness.com/natural-thyroid-101
What about triglycerides?
My husband’s family seems to pass down a problem with high triglycerides, even if being on the right thyroid treatment brings the cholesterol down.
Triglycerides are also fatty lipid substances like cholesterol. But the difference is that triglycerides are for your body’s energy needs, whereas cholesterol is used to for cell structure and to make certain hormones. Triglycerides are primarily received from what you eat. And having high triglycerides raises our risk for hardening of the arteries and plaque as well, increasing the chances of stroke or heart problems.
What to do if you have high triglycerides?? There are several recommendations2, such as regular exercising, losing weight if overweight, substituting better fats (olive, peanut and canola) for saturated fats…and supplementing with high dose omega-3 fatty acids. Some doctors will even recommend certain prescription medications to achieve the lowering, but patients with high triglycerides seem to favor exercising, changing one’s diet, and supplementing with high dose fish oils. My husband is especially doing all those.