03/07/2006 - News

Thyroid linked to heart problem

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Thyroid linked to heart problem

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

A new study shows that overactive thyroid can be associated with atrial fibrillation, but not with other heart problems.
Atria fibrillation (AF) is a type of abnormal heart rhythm that can increase the risk of having a stroke. Previous work suggests that over or underactive thyroid may be a heart disease risk factor. So researchers at the University of Pennsylvania set out to see if there was a link between thyroid problems and AF.

They looked at a group of over 3,000 individuals aged over 65 who had their thyroid function assessed between 1989 and 1990. Their heart health was then assessed through to 2002. The researchers found that 82 per cent of the patients had normal thyroid function, 15 per cent had asymptomatic (subclinical) underactive thyroid, and 1.6 per cent had clinical underactive thyroid. Meanwhile, 1.5 per cent had subclinical overactive thyroid. Those in the latter group were twice as likely to develop AF compared to those who had normal thyroid functioning. But those with suclinical overactive thyroid were at least no more likely to die of heart disease and were no more at risk of other heart conditions. The researchers conclude that the data do not support screening older people with subclinical overactive thyroid for heart disease, nor treating them with a view to avoiding heart problems.

Journal of the American Medical Association March 1st 2006 Volume 295 pages 1033-1041

Created on: 03/07/2006
Reviewed on: 03/07/2006

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