Can Thyroid Problems Cause High Blood Pressure?

Thyroid gland disorders can be stressful and uncomfortable – and so can high blood pressure. Combine the two of them and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm of anxiety, frustrating, and symptoms that just about any of us would pass up if given the choice.

Fortunately, healthcare professionals can offer all kinds of ways to help you treat and manage these issues. Let’s explore the impact of your thyroid and your blood pressure, and then we’ll take a look at possible connections between the two that you should be aware of.

What Are Thyroid Gland Disorders?

Thyroid gland disorders disrupt the healthy function of your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. The thyroid is responsible for releasing hormones into your body that help regulate your metabolism, energy, brain function, heart rate, cholesterol, and many other systems.

Most thyroid gland disorders cause your thyroid to produce either too few of the hormones you need (hypothyroidism), or too many of them (hyperthyroidism.)

Hypothyroidism commonly shows up in the form of Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that prevents your thyroid from releasing as many hormones as it needs to be. This can lead to symptoms like dry skin, depression, tiredness, weight gain, weakness, and trouble with memory or focusing. There are certainly other forms of hypothyroidism, but Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most recognizable disorders.

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Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, often arrives in the form of Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that creates the opposite problem of Hashimoto’s. When you have Graves’ disease, your immune system attacks your thyroid and causes it to release too many hormones. This can lead to symptoms like heart palpitations, trouble falling asleep, anxiety, mood swings, excess perspiration, and weak hair and nails.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have what are often considered to be opposite symptoms. Thyroid issues are often hereditary (and sometimes in regions outside the US, are caused by an iodine deficiency), and this makes it hard to prevent them.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also called hypertension or HBP, is a very common health issue in the US. Nearly half of all adults in the US have it, and quite a few of them don’t even know it.

High blood pressure happens when the force of your blood pressing against your blood vessel walls is too high.

Let’s break this down a bit further: Your body moves blood throughout your circulatory system – and in turn your organs and tissues – from the blood pressure created by your beating heart. When your heart beats, your blood is moved along through your arteries, capillaries, and veins (these are all also called your blood vessels.)

There are two forces of blood pressure: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. If you’ve ever had your blood pressure read by a doctor (and most of us have), you’ll know there are two numbers displayed in a reading – one represents each of these two types of pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure when your heart beats. Diastolic pressure happens when the heart relaxes between beats.

A normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80. As of 2017, the American College of Cardiology has released updated guidelines for determining whether your blood pressure is too high.

AHA/ASA Blood Pressure Chart
[Chart via the American Heart Association]

Symptoms, Causes, And Risks Of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can indicate that you’re at an increased risk for heart disease, eye health issues, kidney disease, hardening arteries, or stroke. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to ensure your doctor checks your blood pressure during regular exams.

Some people don’t experience any high blood pressure symptoms at all, which is extra concerning, because you may have dangerous blood pressure levels and not even be aware of it. If you do experience symptoms, it could include things like headaches, shortness of breath, dizzy spells, blurry vision, nausea, or a pulsing feeling in the head or neck. Having a family history of high blood pressure can certainly increase your likelihood of developing it, but so can obesity, excessive drinking, or smoking. Causes of high blood pressure include excessive salt intake, sensitivity to salt, artery abnormalities, and genetic predisposition.

Treatment For High Blood Pressure

It’s important to focus on prevention of high blood pressure by living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding smoking. High blood pressure is often treated with medications like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or ARB blockers.

Another way to help reduce your blood pressure is to treat whatever issue might be triggering it, such as diabetes or obesity. Doctors might also suggest lifestyle changes like getting more exercise, quitting smoking, losing weight, cutting back on alcohol, or eating a low-sodium diet. Prevention is key!

The Relationship Between Thyroid Gland Disorders And High Blood Pressure

There is absolutely a connection between thyroid gland disorders and high blood pressure. In fact, some experts say that a person with a thyroid gland disorder is 2-3 times more likely to have high blood pressure. You’re especially at risk for high blood pressure if your thyroid disorder has gone undetected and untreated for a prolonged period of time.

Whether you’re suffering from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, either condition can lead to high blood pressure as a symptom. Changes in heart rate are also sometimes symptoms of thyroid issues, and some experts believe that this heart rate change is part of what causes the resulting high blood pressure.

High blood pressure might actually help your doctor diagnose your thyroid issues because it will tip them off as a sign that something is wrong. It provides a tangible reading that serves as a sign that you might have a condition, whereas many other symptoms of thyroid gland disorders are somewhat vague.

High blood pressure caused by another health condition (like, in this case, a thyroid gland disorder) is referred to as secondary high blood pressure. (Primary high blood pressure is the kind that appears on its own with no identifiable direct cause.) Other common causes behind secondary high blood pressure are kidney issues, heart health issues, artery issues, and pregnancy.

The Research Is In

Several studies have highlighted this connection between thyroid gland disorders and high blood pressure, including one study out of North Shore University Hospital and NYU School of Medicine.  “Thyroid hormone has well-recognized effects on the cardiovascular system and blood pressure regulation,” the study’s abstract reads. “Blood pressure is altered across the entire spectrum of thyroid disease.”

Your thyroid hormone impacts so many systems of your body, so when your thyroid levels change, so do the levels of demand on certain parts of the body. Many experts believe that high blood pressure develops when your cardiovascular system tries to adjust to make sure it’s meeting the new bodily demands created by a malfunctioning thyroid.

Above All, Pay Attention To Your Body

If something feels off – whether it’s a symptom of high blood pressure or a thyroid gland disorder – take your body’s feelings seriously. Don’t be afraid to seek the opinion of a professional.

See a doctor, make sure tests are conducted, and get a diagnosis, because you are your own strongest health advocate. Thyroid gland disorders can have life-disrupting symptoms, but most are very treatable. When you treat the underlying thyroid disorder, you’re also likely to see your blood pressure return to a normal level. Remain vigilant and put your health first, and you’re bound to see more positive health results.

a healthy lifestyle fights high blood pressure and adrenal problems

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14594573
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33320-2/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14594573
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17414663
https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure
https://bodyecology.com/articles/low_thyroid_symptoms.php
https://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/109-hair-loss-and-thyroid-disorders
https://www.medicinenet.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension/article.htm
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/secondary-hypertension/symptoms-causes/syc-20350679
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17414663
https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/11/08/11/47/mon-5pm-bp-guideline-aha-2017
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5611345/