Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is under-active and does not produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism (body’s energy production) and organ function. Individuals having hypothyroidism commonly complain of symptoms such as hoarseness, fatigue, weight gain, intolerance to cold, hair fall, constipation, heavy bleeding during menses (in females), mood swings. The investigations show increased TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels and decreased T4 (Thyroxine) levels.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is a mild hypothyroid condition where the TSH levels are increased and T4 is normal but the patient does not have any symptoms.
Studies have shown that older women suffering from subclinical hypothyroidism are two times more at risk of having blockage in the aorta (the largest artery in our body originating in the heart) and heart attacks as compared to those not having this condition. According to researchers subclinical hypothyroidism is an important risk factor for development of heart disease in older women. This risk remained even after considering other risk factors contributing to heart disease such as weight, smoking, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. Women with hypothyroidism were found to be 70 percent more likely to have hardening of the aorta and consequently heart attack.
Hence researchers suggest that screening older women for subclinical hypothyroidism is essential to prevent the development of heart disease. Screening can be done by a simple blood test. Increased TSH levels and normal T4 levels confirm the condition. Also efforts should be made to determine the optimal TSH ranges at which the risks of complications such as heart disease or hardening of the arteries can be reduced.