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Health partnerships promote good health by offering free programs

By Staff | Jan 31, 2012

Volunteers Mollie Price, Muncy, and Gina Pride, Williamsport, are handing out free t-shirts and pedometers to all participants who joined Spirit of Women®, a community outreach coalition with Susquehanna Health. Dr. Margrit Shoemaker, an endocrinologist from Susquehanna Health, shows where the thyroid gland is located on the neck of Robin Dawson, director of the Life Center in the Lycoming Mall.

MUNCY – It is common for most people to link a thyroid disorder as a possible cause for weight gain. But this is not always the case, according to Dr. Margrit Shoemaker, a local endocrinologist. The thyroid gland is the main regulator of the body’s metabolism and many factors can throw it off course.

It is a most intricate system that requires a fine balance of hormone production. Located just below the adams apple (the larynx) on the neck, this gland influences almost all of the body’s processes.

Last Tuesday at the Life Center, Dr. Margrit Shoemaker from Susquehanna Health related the important role of thyroid function to weight gain and how to gain a better insight into its proper function.

The event was second in a series of the Spirit of Women programs designed to offer educational resources for wellness, and to address pertinent health topics such as menopause, cancer, heart disease, pregnancy and many more. Susquehanna Health is now a member of this outreach community coalition that began in 1997 in a hospital located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Its mission is to focus on women as the primary healthcare consumer and decision maker.

About 40 women attended the event co-sponsored by Susquehanna Health and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “This free health care program is a partnership,” said Jennifer Deemer, Grant and Program Specialist with BlueCross of Northeastern PA. “We encourage women to join Spirit of Women to obtain free information on health care,” announced Robin Dawson, director of the Life Center before introducing guest speaker, Dr. Shoemaker.

Understanding thyroid problems is a concern for many and symptoms can vary, from fatigue to obesity and constipation. Disorders can range from abnormal production of thyroid hormones. Dr. Shoemaker described two types: Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroid is an underproduction and hypothyroid overproduces hormones which could lead to lower energy levels.

She further explains that the pituitary gland and hypothalamus produce thyroid stimulating hormones and circulate them through the body causing them to land on receptors that tell the body to work. “Thyroid hormones travel to all tissues of the body.”

Tests for thyroid dysfunction can be done through blood work to check how well the thyroid glands are working. The thyroid gland uses iodine from food to make two thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid gland stores these thyroid hormones and releases them as they are needed. “The system is a loop,” Dr. Shoemaker explained as she related the importance of maintaining a balance so this cyclic system doesn’t go into overdrive.

She added, “The thyroid hormone requires iodine as a building block. Tyrosine, a protein structure, is another building block.” The brain is constantly communicating to the other systems through the thyroid.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism may include fine tremors, thinning hair, ADD or focus issues, rapid heart rate and heat intolerance. Hypothyroidism may show signs of slower heartbeat, moodiness, feeling cold, pale, puffy, fluid retention and weight gain due to decreased activity and exercise.

Recommended guidelines for testing thyroid should be every five years if in good health, and possibly yearly if thyroid levels are not normal.

Beware of some of the Nutraceuticals on the market cautions Dr. Shoemaker. Some of the iodine supplements could cause overdoses, as we do manage to capture sufficient amounts in the foods we eat. RDA recommends 80 to 115 micrograms of iodine a day.

Other tools and tips were also introduced to help with weight loss, which isn’t always a result of an overactive thyroid. “Know your caloric needs for your activity level, and look for ways to burn them off,” she advises. Most of the weight gain is not from the thyroid imbalance, but from the lack of energy and activity level it causes. Behavior modification is a key tool for weight loss. “Take 10,000 steps a day and wear a pedometer.” The 10,000 step per day program is a national program introduced several years ago. “Keep track of your steps for one week, then set a reasonable goal to increase them each week, taking a few more steps each day.”

Also set specific diet goals and write down everything you eat. “Choose one thing to change or eliminate at a time and celebrate all successes, no matter how small,” concluded Dr. Shoemaker for better health and well-being.

Darlene Baclawski from Williamsport felt that the program was very supportive. “The Spirit of Women was good to support women in helath and fitness and taking care of themselves, so we can be an educated, pro-active consumer,” she said.

“Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is committed to improving the health and wellness of the Lycoming County community through our partnership with Susquehanna Health at The LifeCenter,” said Jennifer Deemer. “The free thyroid health education event for women is an example of that commitment,” she added.