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Thyroid Levels of Older Hospital Patients May Be Linked to Survival

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Older hospital patients who have low thyroid hormone levels may face higher odds of dying, according to a new study.

The thyroid, a gland in the neck, produces hormones that regulate the body's temperature, oxygen consumption and metabolism. The gland produces two hormones -- triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) -- that travel through the blood to spur activity in various tissues.

The findings were to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"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," study author Dr. Pedro Iglesias, of Hospital Ramon y Cajal in Madrid, said in a journal news release. "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 study included 404 patients, aged 65 and older, who were admitted to a hospital in Spain in 2005 and followed until 2012. During the follow-up period, 323 of the patients died. Low levels of thyroid hormones, particularly T3, tended to be a predictor for death from all causes, although the study did not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

The researchers also found that patients with the lowest levels of T3 and thyroid-stimulating hormone -- which activates the thyroid gland -- also had higher rates of death from cardiovascular disease.

"T3 could be a useful measure for gauging an older individual's chances of surviving an acute illness requiring hospitalization," Iglesias said in the news release. "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."

More information

The U.S. National Office on Women's Health has more about the thyroid and thyroid problems.

-- Robert Preidt

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