Thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body. Its function is to control how quickly the body burns energy, how sensitive the body should be to other hormones, and makes proteins.
In April 2008, researchers form Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine those women, who had slightly low thyroid function, might subject to a higher risk of dying of heart disease. Even women with normal thyroid function but at the low end of the range were more likely to die of heart disease.
Thyroid function can be measured indirectly, by checking a hormone called thyrotropin, or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH for short). TSH is released by another gland known as the pituitary gland. High TSH level is an indication that implies low thyroid function, which can cause symptoms such as sluggishness, hair loss, weight gain and a feeling of being cold.
Clinically, an estimated 10 percent of older women are suffering from low thyroid function, but this can be corrected by taking a daily thyroid hormone pill.
17,311 women and 8,002 men were studied and these subjects had no known thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease or diabetes at the beginning of the study. Over the next 8 years, it was found that 1.3 percent of the women and 2.3 percent of the men died of heart disease. What strike the researches was that the higher the TSH levels, the higher the risk of heart death. The link, however, was only significant in women but not men, and it was true even for levels that had been considered normal and healthy.
This study clearly shows that mortality resulted from coronary heart disease increases in women with increasing levels of thyrotropin within the reference range. The results also indicate that relatively low but clinically normal thyroid function may increase the risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
In fact, thyroid hormones may affect the heart and arteries in several different ways: they affect heart and blood vessel muscle cells, cholesterol and other functions. As such, doctors are advised to take seriously readings of thyroid hormone levels.
Although patients who get replacement thyroid hormones do lose weight, show improved cholesterol levels and see improvements in artery health, there is no study ever conducted to determine whether replacing thyroid hormone might actually affect heart disease risk.
The researchers also recommended more studies to see if treating low thyroid function could reduce the risk of heart disease.
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