Your thyroid gland, located in your neck, secretes thyroid hormones. These hormones control the speed at which your body’s chemical functions happen — in other words, your metabolism.
Sometimes major things can go wrong with the thyroid, but for most, thyroid conditions fall into the “mild” category. It is not uncommon to find the thyroid performing “subclinically” (no signs of symptoms). Millions of people likely have subclinical thyroid dysfunction, but most of them won’t know it. When the thyroid is only slightly out of whack, most people don’t experience obvious symptoms, and are never diagnosed with any problems.
The condition can be diagnosed by measuring blood levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Lower-than-average levels of TSH indicate an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), and higher than average levels point to an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
It is estimated that nine million people have some form of subclinical thyroid dysfunction, the risk of which increases with age.
For those with the condition, researchers have recently found cause for concern — but not for the thyroid gland. Rather, they are concerned that subclinical hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism could cause at least a two-fold higher risk of hip fracture in older men.
To investigate the link between the two conditions, a research team followed 3,567 people 65 and older for approximately 15 years, checking their blood for thyroid dysfunction and noting who developed fractures.
The researchers found that 13% of elderly men had subclinical underactive thyroids (hypothyroidism) and another two percent had subclinical overactive thyroids (hyperthyroidism). Ten percent of men with subclinical hypothyroidism and 14% of those with subclinical hyperthyroidism suffered a hip fracture, versus only five percent of men with normal thyroids. The researchers suggest an underactive thyroid affects bone turnover, which can weaken the remaining bone.
For elderly women, the risk of fracture did not increase in those with thyroid problems, though it’s not clear why,
To protect your thyroid, remember that iodine is needed by your body to form thyroid hormone. Goiter and hypothyroidism can happen because of an iodine deficiency. On the other hand, if you consume large amounts of iodine, it can result in either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Most multivitamins contain about 150 micrograms of iodine (which is also the RDI for iodine). This should be enough to stop iodine deficiency, but not enough to cause any harm.
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, it’s likely you’re deficient in an amino acid called “tyrosine.” Tyrosine is an essential part of your thyroid hormones and neurotransmitters. Healthcare providers often recommend a low dose of “thyroxine” (the major hormone secreted by your thyroid gland) to correct hypothyroidism. People with depression also have low levels of tyrosine, which is why this condition is sometimes linked to hypothyroidism. If you think you may have an underactive or overactive thyroid, have your doctor so a blood test. He or she will then determine whether you need medication.