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High Thyroid Activity Could Contribute to Cardiovascular Trouble

According to a new report, people with higher levels of thyroid activity then normal could also suffer from an increased risk of heart disease. High thyroid activity could also lead to an irregular heartbeat and other cardiovascular problems.

About Thyroid Activity

Many people suffer from a condition known as sub-clinical hyperthyroidism. That means that the thyroid gland, which is responsible for regulating the human metabolism and other important bodily functions, produces too much of specific hormones. These people may never realize they have a problem, since they never experience the obvious symptoms that accompany full-blown hyperthyroidism, including fatigue, anxiety, high appetite, weight loss and feelings of restlessness.  The best way to diagnose this condition is with Thyroid Function panel (a combination of a Thyroid Profile (T3 uptake, T4, T7) and TSH blood tests.)

A significant majority of these patients are older and experience natural fluctuations in their thyroid hormone levels, which can make detecting the problem even more difficult. These fluctuations also cause doctors to wonder whether treating patients with sub-clinical hyperthyroidism is actually helpful. According to doctors at the University of Bern in Switzerland, many health professionals have been concerned whether the potential health risks of treatment outweighed the unpleasant side effects of the condition.

While true thyroid disease is fairly rare, a very large number of people have slightly under or overactive thyroid glands. The variations in thyroid hormone production can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. When the condition is full blown, it can be clearly identified. In true hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, the body fails to regulate its normal function properly, leading to weight loss and gain, mood changes and other problems. Doctors usually treat these problems with surgery, medication or hormone supplements.

Smaller problems with thyroid hormone production may be harder to identify, since they can be mistaken for mood disorders, poor sleep schedules, or simple irritability. According to the most recent study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, these supposedly less severe problems may also come with their own special risks.

The study analyzed the results of previous thyroid experiments, covering over 50,000 older patients who all had tests that indicated slight over-activity of the thyroid gland. These people were almost 30 percent more likely to die of heart disease than people whose thyroid function was normal. Patients who had sub-clinical hyperthyroidism also seem to have a higher risk of heart irregularities. They do not, however, have an increased risk of cancer or stroke compared to people with normal to low thyroid activity. Normal function usually covers levels of thyroid stimulating hormone between 0.45 and 4.40 milli-IU per liter.

Excessive Variation Increases Heart Risks

It’s not just excessively high thyroid levels that can contribute to cardiovascular problems. Low thyroid activity contributes to a slowed metabolism. That often brings weight gain and discourages regular exercises, both traits that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Normal heart function requires specific levels of thyroid hormone. Treating even small fluctuations in the levels of this hormone can help reduce heart problems, according to a study that looked at about 5,000 people with reduced thyroid activity between 2001 and 2012. In people between the ages of 40 and 70, heart disease risk was almost halved with treatment. Patients older than 70 saw no risk improvement. Pregnant patients with sub-clinical hypothyroidism were also more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes.

These studies don’t mean that everyone should automatically be tested for abnormal thyroid function. Doctors remain split over treatment of people who feel fine but who show slightly high or low hormone production. Anyone who suffers from unusual symptoms, however, should consider requesting a thyroid hormone test to ensure good health.