Thyroid problems linked to increased risk of dementia

Older people with hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, may be at increased risk of developing dementia, according to research published in the July 6, 2022 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The risk of developing dementia was even higher in people whose thyroid condition required thyroid hormone replacement medications.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can slow down the metabolism. Symptoms include feeling tired, weight gain, and sensitivity to cold.

“In some cases, thyroid disorders have been associated with symptoms of dementia that may be reversible with treatment,” said study author Chien-Hsiang Weng, MD, MPH, of Brown University in Providence. , Rhode Island. “Although more studies are needed to confirm these findings, people should be aware of thyroid problems as a possible risk factor for dementia and of therapies that could prevent or slow irreversible cognitive decline.”

For the study, researchers reviewed the medical records of 7,843 people newly diagnosed with dementia in Taiwan and compared them to the same number of people who did not have dementia. Their average age was 75 years old. The researchers looked at who had a history of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism, also called overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones. It can increase metabolism. Symptoms include unintentional weight loss, fast or irregular heartbeat, and nervousness or anxiety.

A total of 102 people suffered from hypothyroidism and 133 from 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 without dementia, or 0.4%. When researchers adjusted for other factors that may affect dementia risk, such as gender, age, high blood pressure and diabetes, they found that people over 65 with hypothyroidism were 80% more likely to develop dementia than people of the same age who had it. no thyroid problems. For people younger than 65, having a history of hypothyroidism was not associated with an increased risk of dementia.

When researchers only looked at people who were taking medication for hypothyroidism, they found that they were three times more likely to develop dementia than those who weren’t taking it. “One explanation for this could be that these people are more likely to have more prominent symptoms of hypothyroidism when treatment was needed,” Weng said.

Weng noted that the observational study does not prove that hypothyroidism is a cause of dementia; it only shows an association.

A limitation of the study was that the researchers were unable to include information about the severity of hypothyroidism in the participants.

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Materials provided by American Academy of Neurology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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