According to a study published in July 6, 2022, older people with hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, may be at an increased risk of developing dementia. The risk of developing dementia was even higher for those whose thyroid conditions required thyroid hormone replacement medication. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. This can slow down metabolism. Symptoms include feeling tired, weight gain and susceptibility to colds.
“In some cases, thyroid disorders are associated with symptoms of dementia that may be reversible with treatment,” said Chien-Hsiang Weng, MD, MPH, of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “While more studies are needed to confirm these findings, people should be aware of thyroid problems as a possible risk factor for dementia and of treatments that may prevent or slow irreversible cognitive decline.”
For the study, researchers looked at the health records of 7,843 people with dementia in Taiwan and compared them to similar people who did not have dementia. Their average age was 75. The researchers looked to see who had a history of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism, also called overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones. This can increase metabolism. Symptoms include unexpected weight loss, fast or irregular heartbeat, and nervousness or anxiety.
A total of 102 people had hypothyroidism and 133 had hyperthyroidism. The researchers found no link between hyperthyroidism and dementia. Of those with dementia, 68 people, or 0.9%, had hypothyroidism, compared to 34 people, or 0.4%, without dementia. When the researchers adjusted for other factors that can affect dementia risk, such as gender, age, high blood pressure and diabetes, they found that people over the age of 65 with hypothyroidism had a higher risk of dementia than people the same age. were 80% more likely to develop dementia. There was no thyroid problem.
For people younger than 65, a history of hypothyroidism was not associated with an increased risk of dementia. When the researchers looked only at people taking medication for hypothyroidism, they found they were three times more likely to develop dementia than those not taking the medication. “One explanation for this could be that these people were more likely to experience symptoms from hypothyroidism where treatment was needed,” Weng said.
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