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What you need to know about your thyroid

Thyroid disease is more common than diabetes and heart disease, but more than half with thyroid disease are unaware.

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Michele Adams is quick to say, “I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus,” but it took her being hit by a car for her thyroid disease to finally be diagnosed.

Adams has always been an active person, but for a few years, she had felt tired and had a constant tightness in her throat. She was diagnosed with post-nasal drip but did not feel relief after a year of treatment.

“I thought this exhaustion, hoarse voice and lump in my throat were just my new normal,” Adams said. “I’d accepted it, and I shouldn’t have.”

During this time, Adams went on a bike ride in northeastern New Jersey – something she still does frequently. However, on this day, Adams was struck by a car as she was biking.

The incident resulted in an MRI scan. Adams was not seriously injured, but doctors noticed something unexpected. The scan revealed nodules in her lower neck, which suggested thyroid disease⁠.

“I now realize I had symptoms of a thyroid condition for years,” Adams said. “I’d had it up to here with not feeling like myself. Once I had the MRI results, I knew to seek out a thyroid expert, and I found an endocrinologist.”

What you probably do not know about your thyroid

Thyroid disease is more common than diabetes and heart disease, but more than half with thyroid disease are unaware, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). This lack of awareness can endanger a person’s health and well-being.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located low in the front of the neck below the Adam’s apple. It produces thyroid hormones that influence almost every cell, tissue and organ in the human body.

Common signs of thyroid diseases include:

  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Depression, anxiety or feelings of irritability
  • Changes in memory or ability to concentrate
  • Joint or muscle pain or weakness
  • Fatigue or trouble sleeping
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Cheryl Rosenfeld, D.O., is a thyroid expert and AACE member. Rosenfeld is also the physician who treated Adams’ thyroid disease.

“If the thyroid does not function correctly, it can affect every possible aspect of a person’s life,” Rosenfeld said. “Remember that thyroid conditions can cause changes in mental health, including depression. I’ve also spoken to patients who’ve experienced an inability to concentrate, which seriously affected their performance at work.”

Several disorders can arise if the thyroid produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism).

Other thyroid diseases include:

  • Nodules
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Thyroid eye disease

Undiagnosed thyroid issues can also place a person at increased risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, infertility and other serious conditions.

What to do if you are ‘up to here’ with not feeling like yourself

“Once I was placed on treatment for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, my life changed completely,” Adams said. “My throat is no longer sore, and I’m able to go out with my family or spend time at the gym without feeling completely drained of energy.”

The first step to ensure your thyroid gland functions properly is to speak with a health care provider about your symptoms and whether a thyroid test is needed.

An endocrinologist is a specially trained doctor who is qualified to diagnose and treat hormone-related diseases and conditions, including thyroid cancer and all other diseases related to the thyroid gland.  

Visit thyroidawareness.com to learn more about thyroid health.

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Fitness

6 Exercise safety tips

Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are more aware of their health and wellness. Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

Sprains, strains and injuries can happen to even the most seasoned athletes. When you’re testing your limits, even a minor injury can alter your performance. Consider products and supports like these from the CURAD Performance Series product line, available at Walmart and Amazon, to help you get back in the game quickly and safely.

Find more resources to support your fitness journey at CURAD.com.

Keep Dirt and Germs Away

The more active you are, the harder it can be to find a bandage that stays with you all day or all game long.

Spray Away Sore Spots

Controlling mild pain can help keep you at the top of your game, and a topical analgesic works fast to heal common pain brought on by fitness and exercise, such as pain in knees, feet, shoulders and backs.

Put Pain in the Past

When recovery becomes the name of the game and pain relief is needed after daily workouts or bodily injuries. Cold packs work to heal bruises, reduce swelling and relieve headaches and general pain points while microwavable heat packs provide satisfying heat therapy to address sore and stiff joints, muscle cramps and tension.

Reduce Impact of Knee Strain

Weak, injured or arthritic knees can come from many sources, including tendonitis and a wide range of conditions that result in strain or overuse. An adjustable band can provide support for on-field sports and during workouts or everyday activities.

Manage Pain and Relieve Pressure

If you participate in endurance and strength exercises or certain sports, you may ask a lot of your joints. Kinesiology tape can be configured a multitude of ways to help reduce pain and improve blood circulation, as well as relieve tension and pressure.

Control Back Strain

When your back is strained, your body and performance can suffer. A mild or moderate sprain can benefit from strong support and compression.

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Fitness

Exercise can provide relief for dry, itchy eyes

A significant increase in tear secretion and tear film stability after participating in aerobic exercise can be another remedy for relieving dry, itchy eyes.

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Photo by Quinten de Graaf from Unsplash.com

A team led by researchers from the University of Waterloo discovered that a significant increase in tear secretion and tear film stability after participating in aerobic exercise can be another remedy for relieving dry, itchy eyes. 

Every time we blink, our eyes are covered in tear film—an essential protective coating necessary for maintaining healthy ocular function. Healthy tear film comprises three layers–oil, water, and mucin–that work together to hydrate the ocular surface and protect against infection-causing irritants like dust or dirt.

When any part of the tear film becomes unstable, the ocular surface can develop dry spots, causing eye symptoms like itchiness or stinging and burning sensations.

“With so much of our activity tied to screen usage, dry eye symptoms are becoming increasingly common,” said Heinz Otchere, a PhD candidate in vision science at Waterloo. “Instead of having to use eye drops or other alternative treatments, our study aimed to determine if remaining physically active can be an effective preventative measure against dryness.”

Fifty-two participants were divided into two groups—athlete and non-athlete—to participate in an exercise session. Participants in the athlete group exercised at least five times per week, while non-athlete participants exercised no more than once per week. Researchers, which included experts from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, performed visual examinations before and five minutes after each exercise session, where tear secretion and tear break-up time were assessed.

While participants in the athlete group showed the largest increase, Otchere says all participants experienced a meaningful boost in tear quantity and tear film stability after the exercise session. 

“It can be challenging for people to regularly exercise when the demand is there to work increasingly longer hours in front of screens,” Otchere said. “However, our findings show physical activity can be really important for not just our overall well-being, but for our ocular health too.”

The study, Differential effect of maximal incremental treadmill exercise on tear secretion and tear film stability in athletes and non-athletes, was co-authored by Otchere, the University of Cape Coast’s Samuel Abokyi, Sekyere Nyamaah, and Michael Ntodie, and Ghana’s Our Lady of Grace Hospital’s Yaw Osei Akoto. It was recently published in the Experimental Eye Research journal.

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Fitness

Late-life exercise shows rejuvenating effects on cellular level

Late-life exercise mitigates skeletal muscle epigenetic aging.

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Photo by Caley Vanular from Unsplash.com

For people who hate exercising, here comes some more bad news: it may also keep you younger. Not just looking younger, but actually younger, on an epigenetic level. By now, the benefits of exercise have been well established, including increased strength of bones and muscles, improved mobility and endurance, and lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

But younger?

A study recently published in Aging Cell, “Late-life exercise mitigates skeletal muscle epigenetic aging,” suggests this could be the case. The paper was written by a team of seven researchers across three institutions, including Kevin Murach, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at the U of A. Murach’s grant from the National Institute of Health funded the study, and he was one of three co-first authors.

Bootcamp for Mice

While the paper is dense with data, reflecting the use of several analytic tools, the experiment that generated the data was relatively straightforward. Lab mice nearing the end of their natural lifespan, at 22 months, were allowed access to a weighted exercise wheel. Generally, mice require no coercion to run and will do so voluntarily. Older mice will run anywhere from six to eight kilometers a day, mostly in spurts, while younger mice may run up to 10-12 kilometers. The weighted wheel ensured they built muscle. While there isn’t a direct analogue to most human exercise routines, Murach likened it to “a soldier carrying a heavy backpack many miles.”

When the mice were studied after two months of progressive weighted wheel running, it was determined that they were the epigenetic age of mice eight weeks younger than sedentary mice of the same age — 24 months. Murach noted that while the specific strain of mice and their housing conditions can impact lifespans, “historically, they start dropping off after 24 months at a significant rate.” Needless to say, when your lifespan is measured in months, an extra eight weeks — roughly 10 percent of that lifespan — is a noteworthy gain.

Methylation, My Dear Watson

The science behind this, while complicated, hinges largely on a biological process known as DNA methylation. A recent New York Times article discussing Murach’s work on muscle memory described methylation “as a process in which clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach themselves to the outside of genes like minuscule barnacles, making the genes more or less likely to turn on and produce particular proteins.”

As the body ages, there tends to be increased DNA methylation, or even hypermethylation, at promoter sites on genes in muscle. “DNA methylation changes in a lifespan tend to happen in a somewhat systematic fashion,” Murach explained, “to the point you can look at someone’s DNA from a given tissue sample and with a fair degree of accuracy predict their chronological age.” Due to this, researchers can use one of a number of “methylation clocks” to determine the age of a DNA sample.

DNA Methylation, Aging and Exercise

While the paper strengthens the case for exercise, there is still much that needs to be learned. Though the connection between methylation and aging is clear, the connection between methylation and muscle function is less clear. Murach is not yet prepared to say that the reversal of methylation with exercise is causative for improved muscle health. “That’s not what the study was set up to do,” he explained. However, he intends to pursue future studies to determine if “changes in methylation result in altered muscle function.”

“If so, what are the consequences of this?” he continued. “Do changes on these very specific methylation sites have an actual phenotype that emerges from that? Is it what’s causing aging or is it just associated with it? Is it just something that happens in concert with a variety of other things that are happening during the aging process? So that’s what we don’t know.”

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