What is the hypothalamus?

The hypothalamus is a small section of the brain found at the base of the brain, close to the pituitary gland. Although it is small, it is very important and plays a crucial role in regulating numerous bodily cycles. The hypothalamus is made up of three regions:

  1. Anterior region – made up of various nuclei which are mainly responsible for the secretion of hormones, often interacting with the pituitary gland.
  2. Middle region – controls appetite and stimulated the production of growth hormones for body development.
  3. Posterior region – regulated body temperature by causing shivering and controlling sweat production.

What does the hypothalamus do?

The hypothalamus is responsible for maintaining certain functions:

  • Regulating body temperature, heart rate, thirst, hunger, sleep cycles and blood pressure (homeostasis).
  • Releasing certain hormones that trigger the production of other hormones throughout the body.

What are some common conditions that affect the hypothalamus?

If the hypothalamus is not functioning properly, this is known as hypothalamic dysfunction. This can be caused by:

A disorder that results from hypothalamic dysfunction is Prader-Willi syndrome which is inherited and results from a hypothalamus that is unable to detect when someone is full after eating. Hence, there is a constant feeling of hunger and needing to eat. People with this syndrome have slower metabolisms and often have learning disabilities.

What are the symptoms of conditions involving the hypothalamus?

Symptoms that indicate hypothalamic dysfunction include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dehydration
  • Frequent urination
  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Delayed puberty

How can I keep my hypothalamus healthy?

To keep your hypothalamus healthy it is important to sleep enough, exercise regularly and to eat a balanced diet.

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