Mild increases in thyroid-stimulating hormone not harmful in the elderly

September 13, 2012

There is no evidence to link mildly elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels to an increase in mortality among the elderly, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). The findings suggest that reflexively treating mild elevations of TSH in those of advanced age is unnecessary.

TSH is a sensitive, commonly measured test to check . TSH levels are inversely related to thyroid hormone levels – thyroid hormone levels below a set-point trigger an increase in TSH. Levels of TSH gradually increase during the aging process, which means that elderly patients are likely to be outside of standard reference ranges and could be labeled with the diagnosis of subclinical hypothyroidism.

"As increasing numbers of people live into their 80s and 90s, it is important to know how to manage their health, including thyroid function," said Anne R. Cappola, MD, ScM of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and lead author of the study. "Our study shows that a gradual increase in TSH occurs during healthy aging and that mild increases in TSH are not harmful in the oldest old."

The study began in 1989-1992 and examined 5,888 men and women aged 65 and older. In 2005, 843 surviving participants who had thyroid function testing were examined for changes in physical and cognitive functions. Between 1992 and 2005, participants who were not taking thyroid medication at either visit had a 13 percent increase in TSH. Older participants (mean age 85 years) with increased TSH and subclinical hypothyroidism did not have a higher rate; on the contrary, data suggested that having subclinical hypothyroidism could be protective. In addition, higher levels of itself were associated with a higher risk of death.

"Our research presents the first data demonstrating longitudinal changes in thyroid function in a cohort of the oldest old," said Cappola. "Our findings suggest that treating mild elevations in TSH in the elderly is unnecessary. Further studies are needed to determine the threshold levels of function that would benefit from intervention."

Explore further: Elderly may be more likely to die if they have subclinical hyperthyroidism

More information: The article, "Longitudinal Changes in Thyroid Function in the Oldest Old and Survival: the Cardiovascular Health Study All-Stars Study," appears in the November 2012 issue of JCEM.

Related Stories

Elderly may be more likely to die if they have subclinical hyperthyroidism

June 6, 2011
A common hormone abnormality in older adults -- a mild form of overactive thyroid called subclinical hyperthyroidism -- is linked to a much higher risk of dying, a new study finds. The results will be presented Sunday at ...

BMC conducts high rates of thyroid testing in pregnant women, study finds

June 30, 2011
A recent study completed by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) demonstrates that BMC conducts a high rate of thyroid function testing in pregnant women. The retrospective ...

Pituitary hormone TSH found to directly influence bone growth

September 13, 2011
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone produced in the anterior pituitary gland that regulates endocrine function in the thyroid gland, can promote bone ...

Recommended for you

Team identifies DNA element that may cause rare movement disorder

December 11, 2017
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers has identified a specific genetic change that may be the cause of a rare but severe neurological disorder called X-linked dystonia parkinsonism (XDP). Occurring only ...

Protein Daple coordinates single-cell and organ-wide directionality in the inner ear

December 11, 2017
Humans inherited the capacity to hear sounds thanks to structures that evolved millions of years ago. Sensory "hair cells" in the inner ear have the amazing ability to convert sound waves into electrical signals and transmit ...

Gene therapy improves immunity in babies with 'bubble boy' disease

December 9, 2017
Early evidence suggests that gene therapy developed at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will lead to broad protection for infants with the devastating immune disorder X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disorder. ...

In lab research, scientists slow progression of a fatal form of muscular dystrophy

December 8, 2017
In a paper published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, Saint Louis University (SLU) researchers report that a new drug reduces fibrosis (scarring) and prevents loss of muscle function in an animal model of Duchenne ...

Double-blind study shows HIV vaccine not effective in viral suppression

December 7, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada has conducted a randomized double-blind study of the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine and has found it to be ineffective in suppressing the virus. In ...

Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

December 7, 2017
Our body has an internal biological or "circadian" clock, which cycles daily and is synchronized with solar time. New research done in mice suggests that it can help suppress cancer. The study, publishing 7 December in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.