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When Low Thyroid Can Kill You


Your thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate your body’s temperature and metabolism. Under certain circumstances, when your thyroid falters, it puts your life in danger.

The thyroid secretes two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These substances are released into the bloodstream and affect the performance of various tissues in the body. Researchers in Spain have discovered that older individuals hospitalized with serious conditions face a greater chance of dying when their thyroid hormone levels are diminished.

“When older individuals have low levels of thyroid hormones, particularly T3, it reflects that the body is weak and more susceptible to the harmful effects of disease,” says researcher Pedro Iglesias, M.D., of Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid. “As a result, older individuals who have a reduced ability to synthesize T3 hormones have a higher rate of mortality, both in the short- and long-term.”

The prospective observational study entailed measuring thyroid hormone levels in all patients who were 65 years of age or older when they were admitted to the Hospital General in Segovia, Spain in 2005. For 404 patients, the scientists tracked the length of their hospital stays and the survival rate among the group as of Jan. 1, 2012.

During the seven-year study, 323 of these people died. The study found an association between low levels of thyroid hormones and mortality.

The study showed that low levels of thyroid hormone, in particular T3, was associated with an increased risk of death in those seven years. The patients in the group with the lowest levels of T3 hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormone, which the body uses to activate the thyroid gland, had higher rates of death from heart disease.

“T3 could be a useful measure for gauging an older individual’s chances of surviving an acute illness requiring hospitalization,” Iglesias says. “The reduced ability to synthesize the hormone observed in this group of patients could be related to the severity of the disease and its prognosis.”


Carl Lowe

Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.