Tips for Caring for Your Aging Thyroid Gland

By on December 10, 2019

As you age, so do the systems within your body, and the thyroid is likely to undergo dramatic functional changes as you get older. Unfortunately, sometimes those changes are ascribed to aging rather than decreasing or increasing thyroid activity. For example, hypothyroidism is commonly associated with loss of focus, concentration, memory, and executive function. It’s easy to see how individuals and their health care providers could mistake these symptoms for the normal results of aging. Hyperthyroidism is sometimes associated with decreased bone mineral density and cognitive impairment; these symptoms again resemble some of the effects of aging.

The Gradual Appearance of Symptoms

Hypothyroidism doesn’t show up all at once. The symptoms may take years to develop. These include feeling cold, constipation, muscle weakness, muscle pain, dry skin and hair, a slow heart rate, heavy periods, and unexplained weight gain. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include losing weight even though you’re eating more than usual, and irregular heartbeat, feelings of irritability and anxiousness, difficulty sleeping, heavy sweating, muscle weakness, diarrhea, and irregularly light periods. If you’ve reached menopause, some of these symptoms could easily be mistaken, so that thyroid conditions are overlooked.

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Add Vegetables and Fruit to Your Diet

The good news is that you don’t need to wait until you’ve been diagnosed to start treating your thyroid gland well. One of the best ways to boost the well-being of your thyroid is to ramp up your intake of vegetables and fruit but do so with care. Some vegetables, such as cabbage and kale, should be cooked before you eat them. If your iodine levels are low, consider using “sea vegetables” such as kelp granules or nori (seaweed used to wrap sushi) to increase them. Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage contain goitrogens that disturb the thyroid. You can still enjoy these greens, just cook them before you eat them.

Eat Lean Proteins and Healthy Fats

Other elements of your diet should include lean proteins, such as skinless poultry, 90 percent lean ground beef, pork, fatty fish, beans and lentils, nuts, eggs, and dairy products. Replace processed fats with natural butter, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts. Other essentials to add to your diet include the right amount of water, a variety of berries each day, legumes, and whole grains.

Discuss Changes With Your Doctor

When adjusting your diet, be sure to discuss changes with your health care provider. When you suffer from hypo- or from hyperthyroidism, you’ll need to avoid some foods while eating others, but the appropriate food choices sometimes differ from one condition to the other. In fact, working closely with your medical provider is an important way to track changes, so you can eventually get a clear diagnosis of your thyroid condition.

Get Plenty of Sleep and Exercise

Paying attention to your overall health is an important way to improve the wellbeing of your thyroid gland. When you experience high levels of stress and don’t get enough sleep, your entire endocrine system is affected (including your thyroid.) On the other hand, making sure you have adequate sleep and exercise supports the health of the endocrine system. As the old saying goes, “early to bed” is a good way to maintain your health. Gentle exercises such as yoga and routine meditation can ease stress and help you reach a healthy balance of hormone creation.

Identify Risk Factors

Discuss your risk factors for hypo- or hyperthyroidism with your medical provider. For example, women are much more likely to experience thyroid conditions than men. People with a family history of thyroid issues, Graves disease, and type 1 diabetes are at increased risk for thyroid complications. Of course, as you age, your risk for developing these conditions also increases. If you are at increased risk, discuss the benefits of taking a thyroid supplement to protect your health.

If you find that you’re starting to feel restless or fatigued, a thyroid condition may be the cause. Unexpected, unexplained weight gain and weight loss could also be symptoms of an over- or under-active thyroid. If you believe a thyroid condition is the cause of changes in your health, contact your medical care provider for the next steps.


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Tips for Caring for Your Aging Thyroid Gland