Hypothyroidism and high cholesterol: My doc... - Thyroid UK

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Hypothyroidism and high cholesterol

My doc finally agreed with me that there is some kind of connection between the two but denies that it's significant. Thus, even if I get exactly the right dosage of thyroxine, it won't significantly lower my cholesterol. I asked for a source on this but didn't get one.

I have (or had) high cholesterol but I've never had a high cholesterol diet, ever in my life. I'm not over weight, I drink but rarely. OK, some of us have higher then 'normal' levels of cholesterol but even so... Searching the web I can only find suggestions of a link but nothing substantial.

Given that I'm on statins, I'd really like to find out if the cause is my thyroid.

BTW, check this link on the subject vague as it is: thyroid.about.com/cs/sympto...

26 Replies

Yes, it's well-known that hypo causes high cholesterol. When I started on levo my cholesterol came down to practically nothing - which is not good either.

But cholesterol levels have little to do with your diet - I know! In an effort to raise mine I eat tons of eggs, cream, butter etc but to no effect.

Cholesterol is produced by your liver, and if it's high it's because there is something wrong, not because you're eating the wrong things - oh, I don't mean with your liver! lol But, usually, hypo.

You know, statins are really a bad idea. They can cause all sorts of problems - one of them being diabetes and they can mess with your B12 levels - and they are totally unnecessary. What you need is more thyroid hormone. Cholesterol is not going to give you a heart attack. It is necessary for hormone production. Big Pharma has really played a nasty little trick on us with that one! And all these ignorant doctors fall for it! Pft!!!

Hugs, Grey

shaws profile image

That's not true. Your cholesterol should reduce when you are on the proper amount of thyroid medication. Not kept to 'within range' . Cholesterol is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

I don't know why they prescribe statins when they could equally add T3 to a reduced T4 which would probably improve your health overall.

These are two links re heart disease and statins



in reply to shaws

The problem is that we're dealing with two situations that are completely disconnected by the medical profession: On the one hand, an underactive thyroid (discovered by accident) and on the other, a heart attack. I'm of the opinion that I've had an underactive thyroid since at least 2002, judging by my symptoms but only revealed in 2008, plenty of time for cholesterol to do the damage.

When I raised the issue with the cardiac consultant he dismissed it, ditto my gp.

Greygoose: your wrong, high ('bad') cholesterol does lead to blocked arteries, the issue is, what causes the cholesterol to stick to the walls of the artery? And yes, I'd rather not take statins thanks very much, they make me feel very ill, which is why I'm trying to find out more about the link.

shaws profile image
shawsAdministrator in reply to

This is an excerpt from Dr Lowe although some of the links within don't work.

In one study, a researcher found that T3 levels were significantly lower in 42 of 65 stroke patients. [Liang, D.S.: Stroke and thyroid hormones. Chinese Journal of Neurology & Psychiatry, 24(6):352-354, 384, Dec., 1991] It is certainly possible that the low levels of T3 were partly responsible for the strokes. It is well-known that low thyroid hormone levels result in high blood fat levels, and high blood fat levels predispose patients to heart attacks and strokes. By lowering blood fat levels, the use of T3 is likely to help prevent, rather than cause, strokes in some of the above-mentioned physician's patients.

The use of T3 is even beneficial in patients with the most frail heart conditions.


greygoose profile image
greygoose in reply to

Well, gee, bowles, you don't mince your words! But in that case it's not just me that's wrong but Paulus Lining too, so I won't take too much offence. Just won't bother in future, but I might suggest that you do some research yourself.

Have fun, Grey

in reply to greygoose

I've done a deal of research into this as it's my life that's at stake here. I'm not sure what Linus Pauling has to do with it, he died decades decades ago, before any of these treatments were invented.

And why should you take offence simply because I disagree with you?

greygoose profile image
greygoose in reply to

You are perfectly entitled to disagree with me - and I with you - but there are ways and ways of expressing that disagreement. There are a thousand ways you could have phrased your disagreement. The way you did express it was blunt, to put it mildly. I would never say to anyone 'you are wrong'.

You have to remember that when you ask a question here, the people that are going to answer it have no idea just how much knowledge you already have - unless you tell them. I did not know that you wished to get off statins - thank you very much! - or I wouldn't have mentioned how bad they were.

However, if someone gives up their time to try and help you, because they care, the least you can do is be polite. And if you have done so much research into cholesterol, I'm amazed that you haven't come across the hypo/cholesterol connection.

I wish you well, Grey

in reply to greygoose

I have come across the hypo/cholesterol issue (search elsewhere on this site), the problem is that there are no proper studies, just intimations of a link. So for example, there is no definitive info on how much added cholesterol in the blood is due to an underactive thyroid. My doc claims the change is minute, but elsewhere, I read that an underactive thyroid is the second most common cause of elevated cholesterol. See below:


(NaturalNews) An estimated 98 million American adults have high cholesterol or total blood cholesterol values of 200 mg/dL or higher. Your doctor may be following the clarion call, insisting you take a statin drug to lower these levels. Both you and your doctor may not be aware that hypothyroidism, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program, is a common secondary cause, after diet, associated with high cholesterol.

Marz profile image
Marz in reply to

......maybe take a look at drmyhill.co.uk and check out her pages on heart and then you will find her information on cholesterol. I found it interesting. Your HDL/ Triglycerides ratio should be less than 2 and the HDL/ Total cholesterol % above 24%. Mentioned on Mercola.com

helvella profile image
helvellaAdministrator in reply to

Linus Carl Pauling (February 28, 1901 – August 19, 1994). RIP

Lovastatin was approved by the US FDA in 1987.

in reply to helvella

Whoops. Thanks for that.

Hashi_since_age9-1988 profile image
Hashi_since_age9-1988 in reply to

Inflammation/immune reaction causes cholesterol to stick to the walls


in reply to Hashi_since_age9-1988

Thanks for this.

Yes, it just reinforces the idea that at least one cause of heart disease is that of inflammation. Unfortunately, most gps don't seem to have grasped this. My gp just dismisses the idea and keeps on about high cholesterol. Very depressing.

And, it would seem that the inflammation has two basic causes: 1. Stress and 2. Sugar (I assume, refined, white sugar as opposed to, say honey).

See: spacedoc.com/Busting_Choles...

Hashi_since_age9-1988 profile image
Hashi_since_age9-1988 in reply to

I don't think GP's keep up to date with current research and it takes a while to filter through but I think it is well known these days that it is inflammation that causes atherosclerosis.


And that macrophages (a type of immune cell) play a big part. Abnormal cholesterol levels may just be a symptom of a deeper initial problem and not the primary cause.

in reply to Hashi_since_age9-1988

The paradoxical thing about this is that statins play a significant role in atherosclerosis, so whilst they might reduce cholesterol, they contribute to a hardening of the arteries.

Well my cardiac consultant (following a heat attack last year) would NOT agree with you, let alone my gp. The question still remains as to the actual connection between the two. In theory then the correct dose of thyroid hormone would lower my levels of cholesterol (all else being equal). I'm currently on 125mgs of thyroxine. My last blood test gave me a

Serum T4 of 16.1 pmol/L (10.00 - 23.00 pmol/L)

Serum TSH 10.93 mlU/L (0.27 - 4.20 mlU/L

My gp raised my dose to 125mg following these results and I'm getting another blood test done in a week or so.

Queried him about free t3 levels and St. Thomas's Hospital don't seem to test for it, though they have a test called Thyroid Profile but no details.

RedApple profile image
RedAppleAdministrator in reply to

There are lots of issues to do with the effect of thyroid hormone imbalance that were known in the past (especially pre- synthetic thyroxine invention), but they've been lost along the way. Good thyroid doctors in those days didn't rely on 'proper studies'. They relied on their own expertise.

There are things other than thyroid that affect cholesterol levels, genetics come into it too for some, I seem to recall. And possibly vitamin D. Perhaps for you, the best answer to your 'thyroid and cholesterol' question will be evident when you actually are optimally treated for your thyroid disfunction. Those test results you've quoted above suggest you have a long way to go yet.

helvella profile image
helvellaAdministrator in reply to

The pathology people do indeed offer a Free T3 test. I have yet to notice an NHS pathology lab that does not offer EITHER Free T3 OR Total T3 OR has an arrangement with another nearby lab to do one or other test.

in reply to helvella

Dear Helvella, my gp showed me the range of tests available at St. Thomas's hospital and Free T3 or Total T3 are not on the list, so he can't ask for it. All it has is Thyroid Profile but nothing about what it tests for.

helvella profile image
helvellaAdministrator in reply to

The lab - now GSTS - does offer Free T3.

Whether or not that is available for GPs to order is another matter entirely.

And Thyroid Profile might be the cascade of tests - do TSH - if out of range, do FT4, if out of range do FT3.

You could always ring or email the lab to ask?

in reply to helvella

True. Good idea, I'll phone them on Monday. Thanks. I think in part it has to do with the gp thinking I'm a pain in the arse. He's already implied that I'm a hypochondriac for questioning treatment by rote.

in reply to helvella

I phoned up St. Thomas's yesterday and two things:

1. My GP can specify a test say for Free T3 and

2. The Thyroid profile test will only move on to a test for free T3 (or whatever) if the results for TSH or T4 indicate that there's a need for it.

So we're back to the reliance on TSH as the marker.

I've yet to see my GP and ask him to ask for a free T3 test.

This is one thing I don't get, as I am hypothyroid but have always had really "good' cholesterol. By good, I mean low within range. I suppose it's like everything else and we don't all have the same issues/symptoms.

helvella profile image
helvellaAdministrator in reply to DeniseR

I too had a perfectly acceptably low cholesterol when hypothyroid. Can't remember exactly where in range but certainly nothing anyone would say was elevated.

And when fully treated, it went down further to "we don't see cholesterol that low except in people on statins" level!

Made me go off to read up on cholesterol being too low - I think I was the right side of the line on that - but only just. :-)

So - precisely, we do vary.

DeniseR profile image
DeniseR in reply to helvella

Thanks, I think I'll have a little read myself :) Although it hasn't been tested for a while and not since I've been on T3, would be interesting to see what it is now.

Every time I see a doctor I am 'advised' to take statins but there is NO way I will. Our brains need cholesterol - why are there so many cases of dementia !

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