Thyroid UK
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Hypothyroid and high cholesterol

Just a quick query, how long does it usually take before cholesterol levels start to fall following starting taking levothyroxine?

I am only on 50 mcg of levothyroxine but due another increase in a few weeks, I was wondering if cholesterol would start to fall as soon as levo was commenced or would I have to wait until I was optimally medicated.

I was going to get my cholesterol tested soon as it was very high last time it was tested a couple of years back and I have always refused statins as I believed the problem was due to my thyroid. Now I am finally being treated for hypothyroidism I am interested to know if it is bringing my cholesterol down.

Many thanks in advance.

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It should start to bring it since once you are optimal but how long it takes I do that I've no idea! I would imagine a lot of other factors come into it like your actual levels to be starting from for a start. It's often said generally improvement of symptoms lag behind bloods and this varies as to how long the problem as been there so may be this is similar. Someone with experience will know more than I.

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It was my high cholesterol, 8.7, that led my GP to test for thyroid, which turned out to be hypo. It took quite a long time, a few years for it to get down to 5.5, plus a few dietary changes, mainly going onto a low GL diet and then look w sugar diets.

I was put on statins but they caused a lot of back pain that would wake me up at three in the morning. These disappeared when I stopped the statins but it took nearly a year. I was persuaded to start a different statin at a lower dose and within days the pains reappeared. Needless to say at that point I stopped statins for good. GP wasn’t happy about this.

During that time my Levo dose was gradually raised to 125mg, so it’s difficult to know what actually lowered the cholesterol, once I had stopped the statins. TSH was as low as .09 and now 1.1. I’ve had to work hard with my GP to get it there as they were reluctant to increase the Levo dose when TSH was around 4.

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It is the FT3 result that is important and which needs to be towards the upper part of the range. Being too low will reflect on your cholesterol. Although it is important for us all to remember that cholesterol is not a bad thing and does not cause heart problems - but hey stressing over it can :-)

drmalcolmkendrick.org

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I've only ever had my cholesterol tested once and no comments from

Y doctor so no personal experience but I have read often that statins aren't a good thing to be on and I'm sure not many doctors will look into these things. So glad you have stopped them. But it does look that thyroid meds have lead to a decrease of cholesterol. It's a pity we have to work so hard to keep well or improve when at the time we often feel so rubbish!

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Statins are evil, they gave my friends husband a condition in which his muscles have gradually dissolved. He is disabled now....they continue to disappear years after stopping Statins. Called Rhabdomyolysis.

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I have only just started being medicated for what I consider to be a long standing hypo problem, and my cholesterol has steadily been rising for the last 10 years. I have always refused statins as I don't believe all the hype about them.

I just wanted to show the Dr that my high cholesterol has always been down to being hypo, thanks for your reply and good luck with your health journey.

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Before the blessed TSH blood test, rising cholesterol along with other symptoms was how hypothyroidism was diagnosed. It's a very good indicator. You are right to refuse statins. They are terrible things.

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Thank you for your reply, I have only been on levo for about 10 weeks so I shall wait for a few months and wait until I am optimally medicated before I think of having my cholesterol tested.

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Yes, you will need to be optimal or getting on for optimal to have good effect. Right now that small amount of hormone is being shared out around your hormone starved body and will be aiding a few things but only thinly as it were.

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My cholesterol has never come down and I have been on Levo for nearly 4 years, I still have high cholesterol. I refuse to take statins basically because I think they are doled out too quickly but mostly because the ratio between my bad and good cholesterol is good. I read some research somewhere that suggested that the liver produces too much cholesterol when we are not getting enough via the food we eat so perhaps if we went to work on an egg every morning the problem would be solved. :)

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I have often wondered if we produce excess ( according to the Drs) when our body is crying out for something else, like T4 to convert to T3.

The only time my cholesterol came down significantly (25%) was when I had HRT patches for a short time, my friend, who's a GP said that cholesterol can act like a weak oestrogen in your body. I suppose when that was replaced by the HRT there was no need for my body to produce as much. My own GP was totally flummoxed by the fall. Lol.

I suppose the same could be said if you are hypothyroid, maybe the high cholesterol is trying to make up for the T3 deficiency.

I was just wondering how long it would take for it to fall now I'm on levo.

I'll just have to be patient and wait for my T's to be in the upper end of the range before I think about testing my cholesterol again.

Thanks for your reply.

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The body is not producing too much cholesterol when we're hypo - and has very little to do with what we eat - it's just that if the T3 is low, we can't use the cholesterol efficiently, and it mounts up in the blood.

Cholesterol is produced in the liver, and the amount there is in our food is but a drop in the ocean compared with the amount the liver produces. If we eat more, then the liver produces less. If we don't eat any, the liver produces more. The body needs cholesterol. Without it we would fall apart because our cell walls are made of cholesterol. So is a large part of our brains. The adrenals need it to make sex hormones. But, one thing cholesterol doesn't do is cause heart attacks and strokes. :)

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Thanks greygoose, I have read Dr Malcolm kendrick's book about cholesterol and I have refused statins because I knew they were more harmful than the cholesterol circulating around my body.

I just wanted to point out to the GP that my cholesterol being so high was probably down to being hypo and unmedicated for so long.

I am not worried about the level ( it was around 9 last time it was measured) I was just thinking it would be nice to say I told you so, and perhaps it would make them think twice before insisting someone else has to take statins.

Thanks for the explanation about the uses of cholesterol in our body.

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Well, I don't know of any on-line articles or papers that explain that. But, in the book 'Solved: The Riddle of Heart Attacks', Dr Broda O. Barnes MD, PhD writes the following:

"(Friedland) began working on cholesterol and other fats in 1927 and published his full report in 1933. He found that if he fed the rabbits large quantities of cholesterol, as Anitschkow had done, he could prevent the high serum cholesterol levels and the atherosclerosis by simultaneously giving some thyroid hormone. He reasoned that the thyroid was controlling the other fats in the blood as well as the cholesterol. Any of the fats might be affecting the atherosclerosis. He even advocated the use of thyroid prophylactically in the human for those with an elevation of the serum fats. If this contribution had been pursued, atherosclerosis would have been conquered years earlier and much time would have been saved.

"In addition, Simonds brought out the close association of the thyroid with fat metabolism in 1932. He found that making dogs hyperthyroid (too much thyroid hormone) with administration of extra thyroid, the animals could tolerate much larger quantities of fat without elevating the level of fats in the blood. If the fat levels in the blood are elevated in hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone), it is no surprise that they should be found low in hyperthyroidism since the elevated metabolism would burn up more fat.

"Hurxthal, a physician at the Lahey Clinic, where many hyper thyroid patients were operated, was in an excellent location for the study of this question. In 1934 he found that the patients with too much thyroid secretion had serum cholesterol levels below the normal range. After the thyroidectomy, the cholesterol would start to rise, and if too much thyroid had been removed, the cholesterol would rise above the normal range. Under thee circumstances administration of some thyroid hormone would bring the cholesterol down to the normal level. The relation of cholesterol to the metabolic rate was so sensitive that Hurxthal suggested the use of the serum cholesterol as a diagnostic test for thyroid function. He suggested that an elevated serum cholesterol was an indication for thyroid therapy, if no other reason could be found for the elevation."

The bold emphisis is mine. Hope that helps. :)

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Thank you so much, it's very interesting. I just hope too much damage hasn't already been done!

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Damage? From the statins? I think you'd know by now. :)

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No sorry I wasn't very clear I have never taken statins. I meant atherosclerosis from having an elevated cholesterol for many years.

I gathered that might be the case after reading Broda Barnes' book many years ago.

I am just hoping that if any damage has been done it can be reversed once I am optimally medicated.

Sorry for the confusion, I have always refused statins, I'd rather believe Dr Malcolm Kendrick's take on cholesterol and the dangers of statins.

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But cholesterol doesn't cause atherosclerosis. Being hypo does. And, according to Broda Barnes, it does go away when correctly treated for hypo. :)

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There's hope for me then!, thanks for your input, it's much appreciated.:)

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You're welcome. :)

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Sorry, replied to your earlier post before seeing this. I agree with you that cholesterol doesn't directly cause atherosclerosis, being hypo does. The problem is when people are never correctly treated for hypo, like me, raised LDL contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. It is so frustrating to be messed about your whole life by doctors who don't seek to inform themselves. Dr Barnes' research has been around long enough for there to be no excuse. Attention isn't paid either to the research of the doctor that created the TSH test, who said that he hoped the medical profession would continue to treat the patient and not the TSH.

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Those are excellent excerpts,gg. Newer experts like John Bergman consider the research of Barnes and Ray Peat and are trying to counteract the current lies regarding cholesterol.

I may have to steal these:)

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Steal away! But I would recommend buying and reading the book. :)

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Agree with what you say except that too much LDL can contribute to artherosclerosis (plaque building up on the inside of your arteries) which does cause heart attack and strokes. I have it through never being optimally treated for hypothyroidism.

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I think you should read Dr Malcolm Kendrick's book, 'The Big Cholesterol Con'.

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Thanks, will try and get a copy. I know cholesterol wrongly gets blamed for things - why I won't take statins. Dr Sigurdsson, Cardiologist in Iceland has a website with some interesting info. To be more specific by quoting him, "However, recent research into the role of lipoproteins in atherosclerosis, the role of oxidation and inflammation, has indicated that cholesterol in itself does not cause atherosclerosis. It is only when cholesterol bound to atherogenic lipoproteins becomes trapped within the arterial wall, that it becomes a part of the atherosclerotic process."

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But cholesterol is part of the arterial wall anyway. It's part of all cell walls.

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He is talking about debris in the inner layers of the arterial wall.

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Well, I'm not sure he's right there. Doesn't sound right to me. I'm not an expert, of course, but that sounds like one of those made-up excuses they hand out. As far as I know, when the artery wall is damaged, the cholesterol acts as a sticking plaster, whist the wound heals. The new wall then grows over the wound, incorporating the cholesterol into the wall. That's not debris.

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I'm no expert either. He's not shooting down cholesterol and goes into great detail about the science. Talks about how LDL has to undergo chemical modification to be implicated. Also about there being two types of LDL and that the standard LDL test is only an estimate and not very accurate - and that testing for particle size and density is a more reliable indicator. Obviously I can't explain well in layman's terms - have a look at his website.

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I'll have a look. :)

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I can't tell you as mine has stayed the same, even with eating a healthy diet. The only time I saw it change is when I remember to take orlistat, bur I spent hours in the bathroom so I only take irmt now and then.

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Stop worrying about your cholesterol. It’s made in your liver and used by your brain and has been proven to play no part in heart failure. Cholesterol testing is, in relative terms, pretty new so really there’s little to compare it to historically so how have the “optimal” figures been decided? Probably in the same way as the 5 a day, by those whose livelihood is linked to the commodity, fruit and veg. and of course statins 😉 Units of alcohol is another, decided by a group of medics sitting round a table and not by any research. People try to baffle us using science that sounds plausible but isn’t necessarily backed by proper research.

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What a breath of fresh air that response is! :)

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The five a day is an interesting one. In Australia, it is 5 veg and 2 fruit!

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