What the research found was that heart disease developed 2.6-times more often in those with subclinical hypothyroidism, versus those with normal thyroid function. The risk appeared to be greater in men, who had 3.7 times the heart disease compared to normal, versus women, who had 1.6 times the heart disease, compared to normal.
The researchers speculate that the elevated levels of thyroid stimulating hormone may be affecting the heart, and not just the thyroid. Lead researcher Dr. Misa Imaizumi told Reuters Health that receptors for thyroid stimulating hormone have been "recently reported to be expressed on coronary arteries" as well as on fat cells that secrete various factors "that affect the development of atherosclerotic diseases. In this way, elevated thyroid stimulating hormone levels may "induce heart disease in subclinical hypothyroidism."
The researchers concluded that people with subclinical hypothyroidism should be watched carefully for signs of heart trouble.
What This Means for Patients
In addition to "watching people who are subclinically hypothyroid," perhaps TREATING those patients would be a help? If elevated TSH has a negative effect on arteries and the heart, then appropriate treatment to safely lower TSH and resolve the subclinical hypothyroidism would seem to be the first line of defense, rather than simply "watching" patients for signs of heart trouble.
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