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mind & body Could It Be My Thyroid?


You’re gaining weight, losing hair, and feeling off kilter. A little gland in your neck might be to blame. Or, maybe not. By Meryl Davids Landau


You could say that Stevens is one of the lucky ones. Although she’d rather not have a problem with her thyroid gland—one that will likely require her to remain on the medication for the rest of her life—she got a fast diagnosis, and the treatment worked well. For some women, results from their thyroid hormone tests are not so clear-cut; for others, the drug their doctor prescribes doesn’t sufficiently take their misery away. And nowhere is this problem


Carol Stevens knew something was wrong when she stood up at work one day and felt so weak she nearly fainted. Soon, the 58-year-old public relations executive from Rye Brook, NY, was chronically exhausted. Stevens went to her doctor, and a blood test revealed that her thyroid gland was underactive. She began taking a thyroid hormone replacement drug, and almost immediately felt better. “It was like a switch was flipped. Suddenly, I could run errands on Saturday morning and still have energy to have family or friends over later in the day,” she says.


18 pause FALL / WINTER 2011


more common than in midlife. While women over 50 are the most likely to develop low thyroid function (a condition known as hypothyroidism), according to the National Institutes of Health, this is also a time when levels of other hormones, especially estrogen, are in flux. “The symptoms associated with thyroid problems—especially mood changes, sleep issues, and cognitive functions—are the same as for perimenopause,” says Jennifer S. Glueck, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in FL. “It’s not unusual for a woman to have trouble sorting out what’s causing her to feel so bad.”


A Critical Gland The hormones produced by the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, are crucial for the normal functioning of the brain,


©iStockphoto.com/GeorgePeters


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