Time to Get Paranoid about your Thyroid

By: Shelly Hwang

April 3, 2010

Most young adults from the ages of 18 to 44 don’t give much thought to their thyroid, but a study published earlier this month in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association reveals increased risk of stroke in young adults with an overactive thyroid.

So what exactly is an overactive thyroid? Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, is a condition that causes overproduction of thyroid hormone, which increases metabolism and causes sweating, diarrhea, weight loss, and nervousness. Hyperthyroidism is common, affecting about 0.5-2% of the worldwide population, particularly young adults. The study shows an association between hyperthyroidism and ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke caused by blocked arteries in or leading to the brain.

The study compared data on 3,176 young adults diagnosed with hyperthyroidism between January 1998 and December 2001 and 25,408 patients without thyroid disease, with the average age being 32 years. After five years, 198 of the 28,584 patients developed ischemic stroke (0.7%), with 1% of the hyperthyroidism patients and 0.6% of the comparison group having a stroke. After accounting for many factors such as age, gender, high blood pressure, diabetes, and an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (AF), the risk of hyperthyroidism patients having a stroke was 44 percent higher than those without hyperthyroidism.

In adults over the age of 60, Hyperthyroidism is known to be associated with AF, which occurs when the heart beats irregularly and ineffectively and can lead to a stroke. However, the risk of stroke in younger people with hyperthyroidism has not been previously studied. This study could lead to a new screening process for young adults to help lower risk of developing a stroke sooner than expected.

Press Release

American Stroke Association

3 thoughts on “Time to Get Paranoid about your Thyroid”

  1. Interesting article, Shelly! Are there risk factors for hyperthyroidism besides age? Or do the confounding factors with stroke (age, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) increase risk?

  2. Is it true that high blood pressure can be induced by thyroid failure? I am very scared because my levels of thyroid hormone are pretty high and I have read that this may influence quicker metabolism which in turn can affect blood pressure. Is it true?

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