Heart Sense for Thyroid Patients: An Interview with Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra
"A woman with thyroid disease needs to take more responsibility for her heart," says renowned holistic cardiologist
Is There An Increased Risk of Heart Disease for Thyroid Patients?
According to Dr. Sinatra, writing in the September 2000 edition of his newsletter, "HeartSense," even subclinical hypothyroidism -- having normal to high-normal TSH levels -- can increase risk of heart disease in women. Dr. Sinatra puts that risk at '14 percent, or similar to the risk associated with the combination of high blood pressure and cigarette smoking."
Still, Dr. Sinatra believes that the main risk is not a causal one, where thyroid problems directly cause the heart problems. Rather, says Sinatra, "if a woman has a thyroid problem, she needs to know that her risk is increased not necessarily because of the thyroid disease or the drugs she's taking specifically, but because of the other risk factors -- weight gain, lipid abnormalities, etc. -- that result from the thyroid disease. A woman with thyroid disease needs to take more responsibility for her heart."
What's the Role of Coenzyme Q10?
One contributing risk factor, according to Dr. Sinatra, is deficiency of Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, as it's known. Dr. Sinatra considers CoQ10 a true wonder-nutrient, because, as he says in his book, "it essentially improves the heart's ability to pump more effectively."
Women are naturally more deficient in CoQ10, and nowhere are deficiencies in this nutrient greater than in women with thyroid conditions. "If there is one thing a female thyroid patient can do, it's supplement with CoQ10," Dr. Sinatra says.
In particular, hyperthyroidism is a key risk for women. Says Dr. Sinatra, "If a woman is hyperthyroid, this can be a disaster, because in hyperthyroidism, a hyperactive thyroid gland can burn up all the CoQ10 in the body. The metabolism is so high that CoQ10 is stolen away from the heart. When this happens, the woman can go into heart failure. "Many times I have seen hyperthyroid storm in a woman associated with heart failure. We didn't understand why women got heart failure and hyperthyroidism at the same time. We used to think it was a virus, but now we know the hyperthyroidism takes away the CoQ10."
Dr. Sinatra could not emphasize enough how important he feels CoQ10 is for women with thyroid disease. "The way I treat women with any thyroid problem is with a minimum of 100-200 mg of CoQ10. If a woman is on a statin drug, or has heart problems, then 200-400 mg a day."
Thyroid Drugs: The Controversy Over T3
I asked Dr. Sinatra if he felt that the use of T3 was a danger to the heart, as some doctors claim. With some patients, Dr. Sinatra is particularly cautious. "For a woman with heart disease or active angina, T3 can be a problem. It can make the heart work harder. Under those circumstances I would hold back T3."
Otherwise, Dr. Sinatra prefers the desiccated natural form of thyroid hormone, Armour, which includes both T4 and T3. He did not feel that it poses any special dangers to patients.
"If there is one thing a female thyroid patient can do, it's supplement with CoQ10," -- Dr. Stephen SinatraIn the October 2000 issue of his newsletter, Dr. Sinatra says, "Be very skeptical of any health care provider who says that there's only one type of thyroid treatment that works. There are generally two opposing 'camps' on this subject, each with their own dogma. One postulates that synthetic thyroid is the only safe and effective medication, while the other endorses only 'natural' thyroid as an effective treatment option. However, both camps are correct in part. Some patients respond only to traditional pharmacologics while others will respond only to Armor, or natural hormone."
Dr. Sinatra's philosophy is, "When it comes to thyroid, one size doesn't fit all. I treat patients, not lab data. I treat quality of life issues."
Says Dr. Sinatra: "There are a lot of doctors who call themselves thyroid specialists, but they're just treating numbers. When I run into patients with more difficult thyroid problems, I refer them to my colleague, Dr. Robert Lang, M.D., an anti-aging medical expert and endocrinologist who specializes in thyroid disease."
The Issue of Soy
Dr. Sinatra recommends soy for women, but I asked him about the soy/thyroid connection. Says Sinatra: "Daily soy can be a problem for women. I still think soy is one of the healthy foods for women, although women with a risk of breast cancer need to do their homework before they take soy. But, ultimately, the best soy for women is from foods -- fresh soybeans......natural soy, tofu. I'm a believer in natural soy."
Dr. Sinatra's book provides greater details on other top foods for women, which include: flax, fish, nuts, and legumes, like chickpeas and lentils.
The Cholesterol Connection
While Dr. Sinatra believes that cholesterol levels should be controlled, he feels that the role of cholesterol is overplayed. "There are probably millions of women who are being treated too aggressively for high cholesterol," he says. I do not like to give women statins, I try to treat cholesterol by natural means. His concern with statin drugs are that "they knock out the natural pathway for CoQ10, increasing the risk for cancer." So, he tends to focus on his natural approaches.
For a women with high cholesterol who has a thyroid problem, Dr. Sinatra feels that sufficient thyroid treatment is the place to start. But if your cholesterol is still elevated, he recommends a low-carbohydrate "Mediterranean" diet to combat insulin resistance, with more healthy fats, and slightly increased protein. He would also add fish oil, garlic, l-carnitine, CoQ10, guggul, plus regular exercise, such as 20 to 60 minutes of walking a day.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), L-carnitine and CoQ10 for Weight Loss
I asked Dr. Sinatra if he had any thoughts about the current popularity of CLA for weight loss and muscle development.
Sinatra thought CLA could be a help to some. "It's one area a woman can investigate. I haven't seen any downside, except that it's expensive. But I do know many anti-aging physicians who take it themselves for weight control. I don't take it myself -- what I do is l-carnitine and CoQ10. In a woman who exercises and does restrict calories somewhat, the combination of l-carnitine and CoQ10 will facilitate fatty acid metabolism and help her lose weight.
Some patients with thyroid problems also suffer from Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP). I asked Dr. Sinatra if he had any special tips.
First, Dr. Sinatra recommends that any woman with MVP be taking supplemental CoQ10. In addition, "What I like for MVP is magnesium...400-800 mg. a day. You can eradicate about 70% of the symptoms with MVP. "
About Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and former Chief of Cardiology at Manchester Memorial Hospital where he has been Director of Medical education for the last ten years. Dr. Sinatra also is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. His New England Heart & Longevity Center in Manchester, Conn., integrates conventional medical treatments for heart disease with complementary nutritional, anti-aging and psychological therapies that help heal the heart.
New England Heart Center
483 West Middle Turnpike
Manchester, Connecticut 06040
Phone: (860) 643-5101 or 1-(800)-228-1507
Fax: (860) 533-9747
Consumer website: http://www.drsinatra.com
Professional site: http://sinatramd.com
Dr. Robert Lang, M.D.
60 Washington Avenue
Hamden CT 06518
11 Woodland Road
Madison, CT 06443
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