Thyroid hormone level may identify people at risk for atherosclerosis

For the first time, researchers have linked high levels of thyroid hormone in middle-aged and older people to higher risk for atherosclerosis, a condition in which arteries become clogged up and which is a major cause of heart attacks and strokes. The new study does not say that raised thyroid hormone leads to atherosclerosis, but it does suggest that it could help to identify people at higher risk for the condition.

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up on the inside walls of arteries, causing them to thicken and harden.

The plaque consists of fats, waste products from cells, cholesterol, calcium, and a blood-clotting material called fibrin.

As the plaque builds up, it can eventually impede blood flow through the artery and give rise to diseases such as angina (chest pain), coronary heart disease, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and chronic kidney disease.

Another potential danger is that a piece can break off or a blood clot can form on the plaque. These can block the artery and cause heart attack or stroke.