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Mary Shomon

Underactive Thyroid Tied to Heart Disease

By August 12, 2004

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Japanese researchers have confirmed that, contrary to the opinions of some of the major endocrinology groups in the U.S., there are serious health effects associated with subclinical -- or low-level -- hypothyroidism. The research, conducted by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Nagasaki, and reported on in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, investigated a connection between subclinical hypothyroidism and coronary artery disease in a group of 2550 subjects who had participated in thyroid disease screening between 1984 and 1987.

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.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, July 2004.
May 9, 2008 at 7:49 pm
(1) Alexis Kenne says:

Doctors now know that heart disease is so deadly for women that their chances of dying from it are one in two. That means basically that either you or your best girlfriend is likely to die of a heart attack, stroke , or related heart problem. Doctors have traditionally used a one-size-fits-all approach to identifying and diagnosing heart disease. In this view, women often lack the “classic” signs of reduced blood flow to part of the heart, a condition known as ischemia. Doctors and patients often attribute chest pains in women to noncardiac causes, leading to misinterpretation of their condition. Men usually experience crushing chest pain during a heart attack.

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