Category: Heart Disease
Scientists Probe Connection between Thyroid Health and Heart Risks
For thyroid patients who are already well aware of the outsize impact that this inch-long gland exerts upon the rest of the body, it should come as no surprise that the proper function of the heart, perhaps the single most vital organ in the human body, depends so heavily on the thyroid. The fluctuations in blood chemistry that result when a disordered thyroid gland produces either too much or too little thyroid hormone can put patients at significant risk for cardiovascular diseases and disorders.
Researchers have long recognized the link between thyroid health and cardiovascular function, but the full extent of this relationship has only come to light over the course of the last several decades. As diagnosis and treatment for thyroid disorders has progressed rapidly in terms of sophistication and effectiveness, doctors are increasingly able to detect and prevent incipient heart problems.
If you or a loved one suffers from a thyroid disorder, it is vital to stay on top of the new and emerging research findings delving into the relationship between the heart and the thyroid. This week, we'll review three recent studies that have focused on this connection.
Mild to Moderate Thyroid Problems Pose Grave Risk to Heart Health, Study Shows
For decades, it was assumed that only the most severe thyroid disorders could impact cardiovascular functioning. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine indicated that even mild abnormalities in thyroid function can exponentially increase heart health risks.
In a large-scale longitudinal study that tracked both heart and thyroid function in an experimental population of over 3,000 male subjects over the age of 65, it was found that even mildest cases of thyroid disorders seemed to exert a significant impact on heart health. Furthermore, even the men whose thyroid fluctuations were so faint that they would not meet current diagnostic standards for thyroid disease had as much as twice the risk of developing heart disease when compared with subjects who experienced no thyroid hormone fluctuations whatsoever.
The authors cautioned that further testing was needed before clinical guidelines for the treatment of either thyroid disorders or cardiovascular problems should be modified. However, they did agree that even these preliminary findings should be enough to encourage physicians to keep a close eye on thyroid hormone levels in patients at high risk for developing cardiovascular problems.
Treatment for Underactive Thyroid Can Eliminate Many Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
A study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University’s School of Clinical Medical Sciences confirmed and extended other studies that have made a link between subclinical hypothyroidism and heart disease.
In the study, patients with minor shortages of thyroid hormone were treated with standard hypothyroid medication. As a result, the majority of patients experienced a significant reduction in the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The most relevant changes were seen in declining LDL cholesterol levels and weight loss.
In addition, most of the patients reported an increase in energy and a decline in fatigue. For some, the boost in energy levels resulted in more physical activity.
The researchers asserted that the results supported a change in the current treatment protocols for even very minor cases of hypothyroidism. Treatment can result in a number of positive health gains, they said, which might be particularly important for patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
Thyroid Hormone Abnormalities May Result in Heartbeat Irregularities in Elderly
Although most of the recent studies that have explored the heart-thyroid connection have focused on cardiovascular disease, one investigation conducted by researchers at the University of Birmingham (UK) indicates that improper thyroid function may also play a role in the development of other heart abnormalities, as well.
Specifically, the researchers zeroed in on the thyroid's possible role as a cause of atrial fibrillation. This well-known heartbeat abnormality is associated with a heightened risk of stroke and heart disease.
The researchers indicate that more investigation is needed to ascertain the thyroid's role in causing atrial fibrillation. However, they urge that even minor cases of thyroid hormone fluctuation should be treated following standard hypothyroidism protocols, particularly among the elderly population.
If you are concerned about the link between thyroid health and cardiovascular disorders, talk to your doctor for an in-depth analysis of your personal risk factors. Please check back each week for more of the thyroid research news you need.
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