Women Over 50 At Greater Risk for Hypothyroidism


Many women over 60 find their metabolism slowing down, causing weight gain and lack of energy but it may be more than just a natural part of aging. An underactive thyroid condition (hypothyroidism) may be partially to blame. Following menopause, women are at increased risk for thyroid disease. Women have 10 times the risk for hypothyroidism and up to 20 per cent of women over the age of 60 have at least a mildly underactive thyroid.

According to the American Thyroid Association, up to 1 in 4 patients in nursing homes may have undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Symptoms can include weight gain, sleepiness, dry skin, constipation, feeling cold when others do not, muscles weakness, joint or muscle pain, depression, pale dry skin, thinning hair, slow heart rate, puffy face, decreased sweating and hoarse voice. A sluggish thyroid can also raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol increasing your risk for heart disease. Smoking significantly increases your risk for thyroid disease and a family history of thyroid problems can also be a contributing factor.


While there is some disagreement about testing, it is generally recommended that women over 50 have their thyroxine (T4) levels tested once every 5 years. T4 levels can be normal early in the progression of the disease, if hypothyroidism is suspected, further testing may be required.

Patients with low T4 usually are treated with thyroxine replacement therapy which should be carefully monitored by a physician. Most people will need to gradually build up their doses until hormone levels are normal.

To learn more about thyroid disease, visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services website at http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/thyroid-Disease.html .