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Doctor Check Thyroid

The Thyroid Plays a Huge Role in Your Health

Everyone can relate to their “check engine” light coming on. It usually happens because a sensor buried somewhere under a hood noticed a loose cable or a hole in a vacuum hose. It’s typically not a huge problem, but it should be addressed soon, before it gets worse.

That’s like your thyroid. It’s a butterfly-shaped gland at the base and front of your neck that pumps out hormones related to your metabolism. These hormones help control how quickly you burn calories, your heart rate, whether you feel cold, tired, or restless. Having your thyroid checked might not be a bad idea if you feel off in any of these areas.

More than 12% of the U.S. population will develop some thyroid condition according to the American Thyroid Association. It’s estimated that as many as 60% of those with thyroid disease or symptoms, don’t know it.

Doctor Showing a Thyroid 3D Model

Hypo- and Hyperthyroidism

The two most common diseases associated with the thyroid are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism — an underactive thyroid — affects about 5% of Americans aged 12 years old and up. Most cases are mild with few symptoms. Women are much more likely than men to develop it. It’s also more common in people over 60.

Hyperthyroidism — an overactive thyroid — is less common, affecting about 1% of Americans. It is also more common in women than men and people over 60. It can also lead to more serious health problems than hypothyroidism if left untreated. They include:
 

  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Osteoporosis
  • Graves’ ophthalmopathy which can lead to vision loss
  • Menstrual and fertility issues in women

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms and Causes

Hyperthyroidism presents itself in different ways, depending on the person. They generally include:
 

  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue, irritability, nervousness, or trouble sleeping
  • Muscle weakness or shaky hands
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Sweating or trouble tolerating heat
  • A large growth on the neck called a goiter

There are several potential causes including:
 

  • Graves’ disease which is when the immune system attacks the thyroid
  • Overactive thyroid nodules
  • Inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Too much iodine
  • Too high of a dose of hypothyroid medicine
  • A benign tumor of the pituitary gland

Treatment options include medication, radioiodine therapy, and surgery.

Doctor Doing a Throat Ultrasound

More on Hypothyroidism

You are more likely to have an underactive thyroid if you have other health problems like celiac disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or a deficiency of vitamin B12. Women can also develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy, but medications can usually take care of that.

Hypothyroidism can lead to high cholesterol, which is a good reason to get it treated. In extremely rare cases, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to a life-threatening slowing of body functions called myxedema coma. This condition requires immediate medical treatment.

Hypothyroidism symptoms include:
 

  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Dry or thinning hair
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Weight gain

It is typically treated with thyroid medication.

Female Doctor Checking on Kid

It Starts with Primary Care

The primary care doctors at AltaMed are knowledgeable about a wide variety of medical concerns. Besides giving you immunizations and routine screenings (like blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar), they can help you manage chronic, or ongoing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and high blood pressure. They can even help with your thyroid.

Even if your health is good, overall, a primary care doctor can help you lose weight, reduce stress, become more active, and achieve other health goals.

Make an appointment today by calling (888) 499-9303 to enroll.

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Hand Blood Pressure

Don’t Ignore Blood Pressure, Control It

More than 100 million people — or half the adults — in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. It means their heart works harder than necessary to move blood through the body.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, kidney problems, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, and dementia.

Hypertension has been called “the silent killer” because there are no obvious symptoms. The only way to know you have high blood pressure is to get it checked regularly.

Couple Running in the Park

Know how to manage risks

Being overweight makes your heart work harder. Eating a high-cholesterol diet does too. If you don’t exercise, and you smoke, drink too much, eat a salty diet, and generally don’t take care of yourself, you’re a prime candidate for high blood pressure.

The good news is you can control those factors.
 

  • Stop using tobacco: Smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping all raise your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly: Just 30 minutes of brisk walking three days a week helps reduce blood pressure.
  • Cut back on salt: Eating fewer processed or fast foods will help reduce your salt intake.
  • Lose some weight: Extra pounds make your heart work harder. Cutting out the calorie-dense snacks is the best way to lose weight. AltaMed has registered dieticians who can help you create a healthful eating plan.
  • Cut back on caffeine: Try having one less cup of coffee per day to start.
  • Reduce stress: Find ways to eliminate some obligations or create some calm time for yourself.
Father and Son Smiling

Some factors you can’t control

While staying healthy plays a huge role in controlling or even avoiding high blood pressure, you can’t escape who you are. Your family history plays a role in whether or not you face increased risk for high blood pressure. It also affects African Americans more frequently.

Hypertension affects more Black adults (54%) than any other group. High blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is more severe. There are a number of theories about why this happens including the higher rates of obesity and diabetes among African Americans. There may also be a gene that makes African Americans more sensitive to salt, which boosts blood pressure.

Control of blood pressure among Black adults is also lower (25%) than it is among non-Hispanic white adults (32%). Among Hispanic adults only 25% have their blood pressure under control, but among Asian adults it’s only 19%.

Racial disparities in the access to treatment and care have been cited as factors in the frequency and management of high blood pressure. Some groups have limited access to jobs that provide health insurance, so they don’t have access to regular doctors who could help them identify their conditions, or professionals who could help them monitor or control their hypertension. In Southern California, qualifying residents have AltaMed to provide that support.

Doctor Checking a Patient's Blood Pressure

Hypertension in women

High blood pressure affects men slightly more often than it affects women. However, women face special circumstances that can lead to high blood pressure. A woman’s chance of developing hypertension goes up being just 20 pounds overweight.

They’re also at greater risk once they have reached menopause. In menopause, the woman has gone at least a year without having a period. Blood pressure goes up along with the “bad cholesterol” and certain fats in the blood. “Good” cholesterol declines or stays the same.

Women with perfectly healthy blood pressure can develop hypertension during pregnancy. It effects one in 25 pregnancies and usually goes away after delivery. But if it’s not controlled, it can be life-threatening for the mother and baby.

Mounting (Blood) Pressure

If you have high blood pressure or think you might, regular checkups can ensure it stays in an acceptable range or take action if it’s not. Some people may need medication to control their blood pressure but making healthy lifestyle changes should always be the first course of action.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at (888) 499-9303.

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Breaking Cigarette Stop Smoking

It’s Never Too Late to Stop Smoking

Most people know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your body. Still, quitting is really hard for anyone who has been smoking for a long time. The nicotine in tobacco is a drug and, like many drugs, it is addictive.

However, quitting is the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter how old you are. It’s always a good time to stop smoking.

Man with Cloud of Smoke on the Face

Ending Decades of Damage

It seems the older someone is, the less likely they are to try to stop smoking. Not only is it a difficult addiction to manage, some people have the mindset that if the damage has been done, why bother quitting?

For one thing, you will live longer.

More than 160,000 people over the age of 70 completed a questionnaire about their smoking habits as part of a diet and health study from the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health.

Those surveyed who didn’t smoke lived longer than those who did. However, those who had quit at some point, still lived longer than those who continued to smoke.

The longer they had gone without smoking as much as doubled their chances of living longer than someone who smoked.

Long-Term Hazards

Smoking dramatically increases your risk for many serious diseases, and it’s responsible for one in five deaths in the U.S. each year. It leads to:
 

  • Lung disease — Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two conditions that make it hard to breathe.
  • Heart disease — Smoking increases the chance of heart attack or stroke.
  • Cancer — Smoking not only leads to lung cancer, it can also cause cancer of the bladder, cervix, esophagus, kidneys, larynx, liver, mouth, and pancreas.
  • Respiratory problems — Smoking makes it harder to recover from COVID-19 and leaves you more susceptible to the flu, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections.
  • Osteoporosis — Smoking limits your body’s ability to absorb calcium which could lead to weaker bones.
  • Eye disease Smoking can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, an eye diseases that causes vision loss, and even blindness.
  • DiabetesSmoking increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes and, if you already have diabetes, smoking makes it more difficult to manage. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations.

Besides these very serious conditions, smoking can contribute to sagging skin – not only on your face but all over your body, age spots, stains and damage to your teeth, and accelerated hair loss.

Senior Adult Woman at Doctors Office

Immediate Benefits

Stubbing out your last cigarette yields results almost immediately and the benefits add up the longer you remain tobacco free.
 

  • 20 minutes later — Heart rate returns to normal
  • 12 to 24 hours later — Carbon monoxide level in blood returns to normal. Heart attack risk drops.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months later — Heart attack risk dramatically drops. Lung function starts to improve.
  • 1 to 9 months later — Decrease in coughing and shortness of breath.
  • 1 year later — Coronary heart disease risk drops up to 50%.
  • 5 to 15 years later — Stroke risk reduced to that of someone who hasn’t smoked. Risk of mouth, throat, and esophagus cancer is half that of someone who still smokes.
  • 10 years later —Risk decreases for cancer of cervix, larynx, kidney, or pancreas. Risk of dying from lung cancer or getting bladder cancer is half of those who still smoke.
  • 15 years later — Risk of coronary heart disease is the same as someone who doesn’t smoke.
Male Hand Destroying Cigarettes

Don’t Give Up

One major hurdle to quitting is going through withdrawals: symptoms include restlessness, irritability, anxiousness, or tension. It might be hard to sleep or you may feel drowsy during the day. Even though withdrawal symptoms can be severe, they usually pass within two weeks.

As much as possible, avoid the situations or triggers that made you want to smoke, such as feeling stressed out or drinking alcohol or coffee.

To help deal with cravings, Smokefree.gov recommends the following:
 

  • Drink water — Six to eight glasses a day
  • Deep breaths — Take a few of these when you feel like smoking
  • Delay smoking — The urge usually lasts a few minutes so meditate to resist the immediate urge
  • Distract yourself — Suggestions include:
    • Read
    • Change your routine
    • Try substitutes like carrots, sugarless gum, or breath mints
    • Exercise
    • Call a friend

Our Doctors Can Help

For many people, willpower alone is not enough. Your doctor can prescribe medications, offer advice, and provide support as you work to kick the smoking habit.

If you’re a caregiver or a senior who wants to stop smoking, or just live a healthier life, AltaMed offers coordinated care and services, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and social services.

For more information about services or eligibility, visit AltaMed.org or call (855) 252- (7223).

The Thyroid Plays a Huge Role in Your Health