A few years ago, I was sitting at a meeting of my book club shivering despite the sweater I was wearing. Nothing remarkable about this…except it was a hot July evening and everyone else in the group was fanning themselves in a futile attempt to cool down.
I noticed a few other odd things around that time as well: my hair was very dry, no matter what products I used; I couldn't lose weight, and I was extraordinarily tired. Sometimes I felt like I had run a marathon simply after taking a shower and getting dressed in the morning.
These all seem like relatively non-specific complaints but my doctor took them seriously. He ordered a blood test that pinpointed the culprit: my thyroid. It wasn't producing enough of the hormones that regulate metabolism. He prescribed synthetic thyroid hormone, which I have been taking ever since.
When I tell this story to friends, I am amazed at how many have had a similar experience. The thyroid – a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck – is the source of many problems at midlife. Too much thyroid is called hyperthyroidism; too little (my problem) is hypothyroidism. Too little is a far more common problem than too much. It affects millions of people, most of them women, and often first appears at midlife.
Here are symptoms of hypothyroidism, from the Hormone Foundation:
- Mental depression
- Feeling cold
- Weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Menstrual irregularities
If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor and get a blood test. There's no reason to suffer. It took me about six months to get the right dose, but I've been feeling great ever since.