Seniors undergo many health changes as they age. One such change might be how the thyroid functions, resulting in hyperthyroidism. This condition is often missed during regular check-ups but affects more than 10% of people over 80. By understanding hyperthyroidism, loved ones and home health care can monitor seniors for signs and symptoms of the disease to ensure proper care.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a health problem that happens when the thyroid gland, which is in the neck, makes too many hormones. These hormones control many processes of the body, such as metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. When there are too many thyroid hormones, it can cause a number of health issues, including Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. As a result, the thyroid gland makes more hormones than the body needs. Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by thyroid tumors, thyroiditis, and getting too much iodine.
Typically, a blood test is used to measure the number of thyroid hormones in the body to diagnose hyperthyroidism. Once seniors have a proper diagnosis, medical professionals will try to determine what is causing the disease. This may mean more tests or even a thyroid ultrasound.
Home health care aides can help seniors navigate doctors’ recommendations to ensure they’re doing all they can to control the situation. Hyperthyroidism can cause various symptoms, but some of the most common are:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased hunger
- Loss of weight
- Increased anxious or worried feelings
- Increased mood swings
- Issues with body temperature – seniors may be too cold or too hot
- Feelings of fatigue
- Issues with falling asleep
Treatment of Hyperthyroidism
The best way to treat hyperthyroidism is determined by the cause and severity of the disease. Some seniors may take medicine to stop the thyroid from making hormones, use radioactive iodine to kill the thyroid gland or have surgery to take out the thyroid gland. There are also scenarios in which hyperthyroidism will go away on its own without treatment.
Beta-blockers might also be used if seniors are having difficulties regulating their body temperature, have increased anxiety, or notice shaking of their extremities. When home health care aides notice these signs, they can discuss concerns with seniors and loved ones. Quick treatment will not only help seniors feel better but also allow for lifestyle and dietary changes that may be needed to keep their condition stable.
Diet Changes for Hyperthyroidism
With the assistance of home health care, seniors can make necessary changes to their diet to help control hyperthyroidism. Seniors should focus on foods with less iodine since the mineral is essential in making thyroid hormones. With less iodine in the diet, the thought is that fewer hormones will be produced. Examples of low-iodine foods are listed below.
- Egg whites
- Fresh fruits
- Unsalted nuts and nut butter
In addition to adding low-iodine foods to their diet, home health care can create meal plans with foods that disrupt how the thyroid uses iodine. These foods include many vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and more.
Hyperthyroidism Should Be Monitored by Health Professionals
It’s important for loved ones and seniors to talk with medical professionals if they are concerned about hyperthyroidism. With the proper treatment and diet, seniors can curb some of the symptoms they may feel and regain the energy they’ve lost.
Working with the home health care team can increase their odds of decreasing symptoms, as well as monitor if additional symptoms arise or if the condition worsens.