Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid problems. The good news is that keeping fit can keep your thyroid healthy.
Thyroid-related issues can cause problems with menstrual periods and pregnancy. Cancer of the thyroid is another risk. US research suggests that one in eight women will develop thyroid problems at some stage.
The thyroid gland is a large butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck.
Thyroid hormone controls how fast calories are burned and how fast the heart beats, so it affects everything from weight control to feelings of tiredness and restlessness.
Sport scientist, personal trainer and founder of Artisticfit Robin Du Toit recently said, ‘Women have an increased risk of developing problems with their thyroid over their lifespan. Symptoms of thyroid problems can be mistaken for menopause as well, which is concerning.
‘Thyroid diseases, especially hypothyroidism, is more likely to develop after menopause. Some of the issues associated with thyroid problems can include too much or too little of the thyroid hormone, which can also make the menstrual cycle very irregular,’ he said.
‘Getting pregnant can also be a challenge for women with thyroid issues and can also cause health concerns during pregnancy as well.’
This condition occurs when the thyroid stops making enough thyroid hormones (underactive thyroid). This can slow down the body’s metabolism, which in turn can lead to other health problems and weight gain.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease.
People with this condition have an immune system that mistakenly attacks the thyroid, which means it doesn’t make enough hormones.
‘Hypothyroidism can be very challenging for people who are trying to lose weight as the thyroid is compromised, which means the metabolism slows down,’ said Mr Du Toit.
‘We know the metabolism is important for burning calories in the body to create energy. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, feeling cold, muscle weakness and unexplained weight gain.’
Exercise helps avoid thyroid disease
Robin Du Toit suggests the best way to avoid thyroid problems is to try to reduce stress, eating healthy foods, and focusing on a solid exercise routine.
‘Hitting the gym and staying lean will also keep the thyroid healthy!’ said Mr Du Toit.
He suggests women consider a personal trainer if keeping motivated and staying on track with fitness goals is too challenging alone.