Heather Hendershot’s Apple Watch may well have saved her life. The device started beeping at the 25-year-old mother last month, notifying her that her resting heart rate was abnormally high. Hendershot had always been healthy, so she figured her watch must have been malfunctioning and dismissed the alert. But when the beeping persisted over the course of the next 24 hours, a trip to the hospital revealed that the watch was accurately detecting that she had hyperthyroidism which was driving her heart toward a potentially deadly arrhythmia. The condition – which women are also at risk for for the first year after childbirth – would not necessarily be obvious during pregnancy, and requires a blood test to confirm it as the cause of mild symptoms. Heather’s husband persuaded her to go to the emergency room. There, doctors ruled out other causes of her heart arrhythmia, called an atrial fibrillation. After blood tests, they confirmed that Hendershot’s thyroid was working overtime, producing too much of its hormone and driving her heart rate through the roof. Hyperthyroidism is common, affecting about 12 percent of the American population. Her thyroid condition can also cause unusual sweating, weight and hair loss and diarrhea because the thyroid hormone plays a key role in the body’s regulatory system. So when too much thyroid hormone is pumped into the body, everything goes into overdrive. Hyperthyroidism is very manageable, but because Hendershot had likely gone a long time without any medication, she was at risk for a so-called thyroid storm. During a thyroid storm, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature all soar sky-high. So the doctors kept Hendershot in the intensive care unit overnight, carefully tracking her heart rate and blood pressure. She is now back home with her husband and newborn, but is still untreated. Hendershot will have to undergo testing to determine the cause of her thyroid condition – which is Graves’ Disease in 80 percent of cases, but can also develop within the first year after a woman gives birth. In order to accurately diagnose Hendershot, doctors will have to wait until she has stopped breast feeding.
Photo credit: healthmedicinet.com