Have you been writing off constipation, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain as natural aspects of aging, or side-effects of stress? Don’t. While these are certainly possible causes, it’s important to alert your doctor to such symptoms, particularly if you’re over 50, to rule out another, common, treatable problem: an under-active thyroid gland. (On the other end of the spectrum, a racing heartbeat, unintentional weight loss, anxiety and irritability may also be signals that your thyroid function is working overtime.)
A butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the throat, the thyroid regulates our metabolism, and produces hormones that affect every cell in our bodies. And it’s not uncommon for this scrap of tissue to stop working properly: according to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, one in ten Canadians experience a thyroid problem at some point in life, with half going undiagnosed. Five times more common among women than men, thyroid disorders become increasingly prevalent with age, affecting one in five people 75 and older, and up to 25 per cent of people living in long-term care.
My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so kindly shared their time, expertise and stories:
- Ben Benedict
- Dr. Christopher Kovacs, a professor and researcher in the Faculty of Medicine, Endocrinology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, NL.
- Dr. Todd McMullen, an associate professor of surgery in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
- Dr. Andrea Opgenorth, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
- Dr. Terri Paul, a professor of endocrinology at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, and an endocrinologist at St. Joseph’s Health Care London in London, Ont.
- Dr. Ally Prebtani, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
- Dr. Sam Wiseman, an associate professor of surgery in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
- Linda Rooker
Photo courtesy of Pexels