Thyroid Function, Cardiovascular Risk Factors, and Incident Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study

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Abstract

Context:

Cardiovascular outcomes in mild thyroid dysfunction (treatment controversial) and moderate or severe dysfunction (treatment standard) remain uncertain.

Objective:

To examine cross-sectional and prospective associations of thyroid function with cardiovascular risk factors and events.

Design:

In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, we measured concentrations of thyrotropin, free thyroxine, and total triiodothyronine (T3) in stored serum samples originally collected in 1990-1992. We used multivariable linear regression to assess cross-sectional associations of thyroid function with cardiovascular risk factors and Cox regression to assess prospective associations with cardiovascular events. Follow-up occurred through 31 December 2014.

Setting:

General community.

Participants:

Black and white men and women from the United States, without prior myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, or heart failure.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Cross-sectional outcomes were blood pressure, glycemic markers, and blood lipids. Prospective outcomes were adjudicated fatal and nonfatal MI and stroke.

Results:

Among 11,359 participants (57 ± 6 years, 58% women), thyroid function was more strongly associated with blood lipids than blood pressure or glycemic measures. Mean adjusted differences in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were +15.1 (95% confidence interval: 10.5 to 19.7) and +3.2 (0.0 to 6.4) mg/dL in those with moderate/severe and mild chemical hypothyroidism, relative to euthyroidism; an opposite pattern was seen in hyperthyroidism. Similar differences were seen in triglycerides and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. With a 22.5-year median follow-up, 1102 MIs and 838 strokes occurred, with similar outcomes among baseline thyroid function groups and by T3 concentrations.

Conclusions:

Hypothyroidism is associated with hyperlipidemia, but the magnitude is small in mild chemical hypothyroidism, and cardiovascular outcomes are similar between thyroid function groups.

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