Hormones and Heart Disease

Endocrine SystemWe aren’t talking estrogen here, but this latest news does concern the ladies of the community.

In the recent “Hunt Study” conducted by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science, women with thyroid function in the less active part of the “normal” clinical reference range showed an increased risk for fatal coronary heart disease relative to those with numbers in the more active part of the clinical range.

The findings were based on a follow-up with 17,311 women and 8,002 men who had shown no signs of heart disease, diabetes or thyroid disorder at the beginning of the study in the mid-1990s. All participants were 40 years or older when initial tests were done to measure levels of thyrotropin, a hormone released by the pituitary gland that is known to stimulate the thyroid. During the follow-up examinations that were completed in 2004, researchers found that 192 women and 164 men had died of heart disease. Of these subjects, none had shown signs of thyroid malfunction. However, women whose readings showed the relative lowest (but still clinically normal) thyroid gland activity were “69 percent more likely to die from heart disease than women with more active glands.”

Compared with women in the lower part of the reference range (thyrotropin level, 0.50-1.4 mIU/L), the hazard ratios for coronary death were 1.41 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02-1.96) and 1.69 (95% CI, 1.14-2.52) for women in the intermediate (thyrotropin level, 1.5-2.4 mIU/L) and higher (thyrotropin level, 2.5-3.5 mIU/L) categories, respectively.

via Archives of Internal Medicine

According to the researchers, “These results indicate that relatively low but clinically normal thyroid function may increase the risk of fatal coronary heart disease.” The researchers noted that lower thyroid function has been associated with traditional risk factors for heart disease: “Emerging evidence indicates that levels of thyrotropin within the reference [normal] range are positively and linearly associated with systolic [top number] and diastolic [bottom number] blood pressure, body-mass index and serum lipid concentrations with adverse effects on cardiovascular health.”

The researchers added that no clinical research has studied the impact thyroid medication might have on this added heart disease risk. The study findings did not show the same connection between thyroid function and fatal heart disease risk for men.

We’ve always made the argument here that health is more than the sum of a few clinically measured parts. It’s ultimately a whole package, an interactive design. Hormone balance is absolutely key to good health, and an imbalance is assuredly sign of wider havoc. Thyroid function is part of the body’s intricate hormonal symphony and is tied to a number of lifestyle related choices and circumstances, including environmental toxin exposure (most notably but not exclusively perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel that is present in water and milk and has been linked to thyroid malfunction in animal studies) and chronic inflammation that may be caused by factors like a consistently poor diet and/or autoimmune disorder.

We always advise making the most of preventative medical care. For women in particular, getting a thyroid function test and talking about the results with your doctor is one step toward knowing more and taking charge.

Questions? Comments? Experiences in this area and suggestions to add?

Further Reading:

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