Thyroid Health: Symptoms, Awareness, Prevention

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Thyroid Health: Symptoms, Awareness, Prevention

Monday, 27 May 2024 | The HEALTH PIONEER

Thyroid Health: Symptoms, Awareness, Prevention

Located in the neck, Thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland affects many bodily functions through the hormones it produces. Managing thyroid disorders requires recognizing symptoms, raising awareness, and implementing preventive measures, doctors tell THE HEALTH PIONEER

Despite its significance, thyroid disorders are common and often go undiagnosed, impacting approximately 200 million people worldwide, including 42 million in India.

Recognizing Thyroid Symptoms

Thyroid disorders can manifest in various ways, affecting multiple bodily functions. Common symptoms to watch for include unexplained weight changes, fatigue or excessive energy, changes in heart rate, neck swelling, and hair loss or changes in skin texture. These symptoms often arise because the thyroid gland's hormones are integral to regulating metabolism and energy.

Two primary types of thyroid disorders are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, and cold intolerance. Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, presents with symptoms like weight loss, heat intolerance, increased appetite, and nervousness. Early recognition of these symptoms is crucial for effective management and treatment.

Doctors Insights on Thyroid Health

Experts emphasize the importance of awareness and early detection in managing thyroid health. Dr. Chandrakant Sambhaji Pandav, a member of the National Council on POSHAN Abhiyan and former head of the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS, Delhi, underscored the necessity of awareness in tackling the rise in thyroid diseases. He highlighted that iodine deficiency, historically a major cause of thyroid disorders, still exists in some regions. Adequately iodized salt is essential in preventing thyroid diseases. “Without awareness, you cannot move forward. Awareness is necessary to ensure early detection of thyroid diseases and can prevent major ailments,” he asserted.

Dr Pandav was sharing his views at the ASSOCHAM CSR Council's panel discussion on the eve of World Thyroid Day, titled ‘Thyroid Matters: In Health & Disease.’  Experts from various fields had gathered to discuss the importance of thyroid awareness. Dr. Mudit Sabharwal, Consultant Diabetes and Endocrinology at Fortis La Femme Multi Specialty Hospital and Director and Consultant at Dharma Diabetes and Metabolic Clinics, Delhi & NCR, highlighted the symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. He recommended simple exercises like Surya Namaskar to help control hyperthyroidism and stressed the importance of a healthy lifestyle to prevent related health issues like high cholesterol and diabetes.

Dr. Subhash K Wangnoo,  Senior Consultant - Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, on the other hand enlisted additional signs of thyroid dysfunction such as unexpected weakness and postpartum depression in women. He emphasized the importance of careful monitoring in pregnant women, as late detection can affect the intelligence quotient in babies. “Thyroid does a lot of work to help metabolize and maintain blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate. Pregnant women also need to be very careful,” he explained.

Preventive Measures Taking preventive measures is crucial in safeguarding thyroid health. Dr. Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, Additional Director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital, Greater Noida, talked about the wide-ranging impact of thyroid disorders, which can cause cretinism in children, obesity, infertility, and even cancer if a malignant tumor develops.

He  too batted for maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress levels, reducing exposure to environmental toxins, monitoring iodine intake, undergoing regular thyroid screenings, abstaining from smoking, and incorporating regular exercise into one's routine. A balanced diet rich in iodine, selenium, and zinc is particularly important, as these nutrients support thyroid function.

“Foods such as fish, dairy products, and iodized salt can help maintain adequate iodine levels. Additionally, managing stress through mindfulness practices and regular physical activity can positively impact thyroid health.

“Regular screenings, especially for individuals with a family history of thyroid disorders, are essential for early detection and effective management,” he said.

Raising Public Awareness

Anil Rajput, Chairperson of the ASSOCHAM National CSR Council which has been providing platform to raise awareness on  various public health issues, emphasized the need for heightened awareness and proactive measures to address the increasing prevalence of thyroid disorders.

He called for gender-sensitive approaches. “The increase

in the prevalence of thyroid-related health issues warrants heightened awareness and pro-active measures to be put in place with a greater sense of urgency to effectively address this challenge of significant proportions. Thyroid ailments affect both men and women with the latter reporting a higher incidence necessitating the need for gender-sensitive approaches to be looked at in greater detail,” he stated.

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