Weekly Health Blog
By: Dr. Kenneth McLeod, PhD.
In mid-life many individuals start to develop a number of symptoms often attributed to “getting old.” These include fatigue – or being unusually tired even if you are sleeping well; Cold intolerance – feeling chilled even though you are in a warm environment and others around you are comfortable; Weight gain – even though you may be eating less than normal; Cognitive dysfunction – such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, loss of interest in things.
If you are developing these symptoms, and you are over the age of 60, you should speak to your primary care provider about being tested for hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone which serves a critical role in regulating the metabolic rate of the tissues in the body. Low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) can lead to all of the above symptoms. Hypothyroidism is about three times more common in women than men, so it is particularly important that women with these symptoms consider having a serum TSH test.
However, only about 6% of women over the age of 60 have low thyroid hormone levels, yet the symptoms described above are far more common than that. For example, over 30% of adults over the age of 50 report that they are fatigued all the time, and close to 20% report cold intolerance. As a result, many people tend to attribute fatigue, cold intolerance, weight gain, and cognitive decline simply to “getting old.”
Metabolic rate does tends to decline as people age, but only rarely is this due to hypothyroidism, and it is not due to “getting old”. Rather, the decline is metabolism usually results from a decline in cardiac output. Even if you have a perfectly healthy heart, each time your heart contracts, it can only pump out as much blood as comes back to the heart when the cardiac muscle is relaxing. Insufficient venous return leads directly to insufficient cardiac output.
Venous return is quite efficient when you are lying down, but if you are sitting, or standing, upright, the blood in your body has to be pumped back up to the heart against the force of gravity. This is not a simple task, and requires the efforts of specialized muscles – the soleus muscles, in your lower legs. The role the soleus muscles play in ensuring sufficient venous return to the heart has led to these muscles being called our “second hearts.”
For older individuals who are experiencing fatigue, weight gain, or cognitive dysfunction, it is not simply about getting old, in most cases it is due to weak soleus muscles. You can easily train up your soleus muscles by squatting, instead of sitting, when you are relaxing, though that can be a difficult exercise for older individuals. Instead of taking up squatting exercises, a good alternative is passive exercise, or using the HeartPartner to activate your soleus muscles while you are sitting. Use of the HeartPartner for a couple of hours each day, over a period of a few months, is usually enough to make those “aging” symptoms start to fade away.
For further information, please visit our website: www.sonostics.com. We always enjoy hearing about your experiences with the HeartPartner, so consider sharing your story with us. Please also feel free to share this heath-tip on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media accounts and help us get this information out to the community.