How Your Thyroid Could Be Working Against Your Heart

From Drugs.com - October 31, 2017

How Your Thyroid Could Be Working Against Your Heart

TUESDAY, Oct. 31, 2017 -- The tiny thyroid gland could have a big impact on heart health, new research suggests.

Middle-aged and older adults with an elevated thyroid hormone may be at higher risk of heart disease and death, researchers found.

In the new Dutch study, high and even high-normal levels of a hormone called free thyroxine (FT4) doubled the odds of having calcification of the coronary arteries. This can be a sign of atherosclerosis, commonly called hardening of the arteries.

Higher FT4 levels were also linked to an 87 percent greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke and twice the risk of dying from one.

"High FT4 is indicative of an overactive thyroid," explained lead researcher Dr. Arjola Bano, of Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

FT4 is produced in the thyroid gland at the front of the neck. It helps control the body's rate of energy use, she said.

Atherosclerosis means you have fatty deposits called plaque that can clog arteries. As plaque builds up, the artery narrows, reducing blood flow.

Atherosclerosis can progress from thickening and hardening of the artery walls to heart disease, stroke and death, Bano said.

"Our findings suggest that FT4 measurement can help identify people at increased risk of atherosclerotic events," she added.

But before doctors start testing people for their FT4 levels, the findings need confirmation in broader population groups, Bano said. This research was restricted to mostly white participants aged 45 or older.

One doctor who reviewed the findings agreed that more study is needed.

This study shows an association, but does not prove that FT4 boosts the risk for heart disease, said Dr. Byron Lee, director of electrophysiology laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco.

"The FT4 could be the cause or simply a marker," Lee said. "Either way, this warrants further exploration, and patients with high FT4 should be on the lookout."

Dr. Minisha Sood is an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who also reviewed the findings.


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