Hypothyroidism and Aging
Some people over age 60 have few, if any, symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Others experience the same symptoms younger people do. Still, others have symptoms that are not typical at all, making a hypothyroidism diagnosis difficult.
Any of the following can indicate hypothyroidism in an older person:
1. Joint or muscle pain
Vague joint pain is a classic symptom. Often it’s the only symptom of hypothyroidism in an older person. Muscle aches tend to be in large muscle groups like those in the legs.
2. Unexplained high cholesterol
High cholesterol is sometimes the only evidence of an underactive thyroid in an older person. Because this sign may stand alone, high cholesterol warrants a thyroid evaluation.
3. Heart failure
Reduced blood volume, weaker contractions of the heart muscle, and a slower heart rate are all caused by low thyroid hormone levels and can contribute to heart failure. Heart failure means your heart can't pump out blood effectively. Ineffective pumping may cause subtle symptoms such as decreased energy or slower walking. In more advanced stages, fluid backs up in the lungs and legs, causing leg swelling and shortness of breath.
4. Bowel movement changes
Older people with hypothyroidism may experience constipation because their stool move more slowly through the bowels.
5. Psychiatric problems
Clinical depression is a common symptom in younger people with hypothyroidism, but it can also affect older people with this condition. The difference is that in older people it may be the only symptom. However, in some cases, older adults can develop psychosis with delusional behaviors and/or hallucinations.
6. Cognitive decline
Unfortunately, older people with a very underactive thyroid gland are sometimes misdiagnosed with dementia. That’s why doctors should order thyroid testing. If you or a loved one are being evaluated for dementia, make sure that a thyroid test is part of the evaluation.
A note on exercise…
When a thyroid disorder is under good control with medication, exercise is safe and can help improve the remaining symptoms. People with hypothyroidism, for example, often experience fatigue and weight gain that doesn’t always ease up with thyroid medication alone.
Exercise is a wonderful way to boost energy levels and control weight. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, reach out to EPT. We will devise an exercise program that meets your needs.