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The golden years of adulthood come with many joys such as retirement, watching children start a life of their own, spending time with them, playing with grandchildren, and basking in the glow of a fulfilling life with wisdom, age, and grace. It also comes with the awareness and understanding that one’s body is changing due to the normal ageing processes that could range from minor physical changes to those that would require medical attention.
Thyroid imbalance and disease is one condition that is becoming increasingly common and affects seniors and their quality of life.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones necessary for your body to function properly. Thyroid imbalance can cause this gland to produce more or fewer hormones than the body needs.
Hyperthyroidism is an imbalance of thyroid hormones when the thyroid is overactive and produces excessive hormones in your body causing increased metabolism.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive and produces fewer hormones than normal. This causes the body’s systems to slow down and results in slower metabolism. Both conditions can negatively affect one’s quality of life and potentially lead to other critical health issues. Hypothyroidism is quite common in older adults and is often tricky to detect since the symptoms often resemble other health problems that occur due to advanced age. It is important to understand the symptoms of thyroid imbalance and ask your doctor to check thyroid levels with a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) blood test that is used to diagnose thyroid disorders. Once you have been diagnosed, thyroid disease can be easily treated with prescription medication to restore adequate hormone levels as well as lifestyle changes to rev up your metabolism.
Here are eight ways hypothyroidism could affect seniors’ quality of life depending on degree of thyroid hormone levels:
1. Fatigue and Sluggishness
Constantly feeling tired, sluggish, and disinclined to get up and get going? A sluggish thyroid can impact one’s mood and how their body processes energy. When your body produces the right amount of hormones, you feel healthy, more energetic, and balanced. However, when fewer hormones are produced, this leads the body to feel sluggish, and slow.
2. Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite and frequently skipping meals are often symptoms of a slowed metabolism that leads to other conditions such as fatigue. A good rule of thumb is to eat small, but healthy meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism running strong and smoothly.
3. Unexplained Weight Gain
An unexpected change in weight is a sure sign of a thyroid disorder. Low levels of thyroid hormones could cause unexpected weight gain due to excess accumulation of salt and slower metabolism. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for seniors to prevent additional serious health issues such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressures, cancer, strike, decreased immunity, and mental health.
As you grow older, constipation can become a recurring problem. However, a sluggish thyroid and low hormone levels can also impact your digestion and further increase your risk of constipation as well. Ongoing constipation and digestive discomfort can seriously affect the lifestyle of seniors.
Although constipation is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism, it does not have to become a part of your lifestyle. Eating more fibre based foods, drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily and regular exercise can help improve bowel movements in older adults.
5. Memory Impairment
Memory loss or a decrease in cognitive functioning is often attributed to advancing age. However, these are also symptoms of hypothyroidism as well. Low hormone production can negatively affect one’s physical energy and mental processes as well, causing both to function sluggishly. However, thyroid hormone medication paired with regular exercise and lifestyle changes can help you get back on track and improve any sluggish mental or physical behaviour.
6. Dry Skin and Puffiness
Hypothyroidism can cause skin irritation and changes like decreased sweating that can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for senior adults. Dry, coarse skin, as well as facial puffiness, is a common skin symptom linked to thyroid imbalance. Simply and natural moisturisers such as olive oil and coconut oil after showering can help trap the natural moisture and significantly lessen the incidence of dry skin. To deal with facial puffiness, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can help alleviate the condition.
7. Increased Sensitivity to Cold
Do you find yourself shivering and sensitive to cold when no one else around you is? Although this is a common issue faced by seniors, thyroid imbalance could be another reason for the issue as well.
8. High Cholesterol Levels
Thyroid hormones are needed by the body to make cholesterol and get rid of the cholesterol it does not need. When thyroid hormone levels are too low, this impacts how your body breaks down LDL cholesterol properly.
Hypothyroidism can lead to increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood that could increase the risks of developing critical conditions such as heart disease.
Taking thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid can help lower your cholesterol level. Several lifestyle measures can help lower cholesterol and reduce symptoms of thyroid disease such as healthy diet and weight loss, reducing intake of junk food and, exercise.
Keeping Your Golden Years Golden
The hormones produced by your thyroid are responsible for a lot including your metabolism, health of your skin and bones, mental health, sleep quality, and more. Even if you do have a thyroid problem, restoring it to its former healthy state again is possible and requires a go-getter approach to healthy living. Getting tested and properly diagnosed for thyroid imbalance is the first step towards getting your thyroid back into tip-top condition and ensuring a better, more comfortable lifestyle during your golden years.
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