Roundup: Thyroid Problems Linked to Higher Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death; Exercise Can Help Curb Harmful Effects of Alcohol

Researchers had already established that thyroid problems caused by an imbalance of hormones are associated with subsequent heart problems, from an irregular heartbeat to cardiovascular disease. But a new study has added “sudden cardiac death” to the list of potential heart problems linked to thyroid disorders.

The thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, takes iodine from the diet and makes thyroid hormones. The thyroid produces the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine and they affect a person’s physical energy, temperature, weight and mood. Functional disorders of the thyroid are usually related to the gland producing too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).

The new study suggests that people with higher thyroid hormone levels have a four-fold increased risk of sudden cardiac death, compared to those with lower thyroid levels, according to the findings published in the journal Circulation. The study included health data on 10,318 adults, ages 45 and older, from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The data, which included information about each person’s thyroid and heart health, were collected from 1990 to 1993, 2000 to 2001, and 2006 to 2008.

Researches discovered that higher levels of the thyroid-produced hormone thyroxine were associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Other cardiovascular risk factors were taken into consideration. The data showed that the risk of dying from sudden cardiac death increased from 1 percent to 4 percent with higher thyroxine levels over a 10-year period.

Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem, according to the American Heart Association. Sudden cardiac arrest accounts for 300,000 to 400,000 deaths annually in the United States.

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Exercise Can Help Curb Harmful Effects of Alcohol, Study Finds

The benefits of exercise in battling chronic disease have been widely accepted. The harmful effects of consuming too much alcohol are equally well chronicled.

Now comes a first-of-its-kind study that says exercise can “cancel out” some of the negative impact that too much consumption of alcohol has on one’s health.

Excessive alcohol use is responsible for about 88,000 deaths each year in the United States, and can shorten one’s life by almost 30 years, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drinking too much alcohol has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and stroke and several types of cancer – including breast, liver and colorectal cancer.

In the new study, researchers gathered data from health surveys taken in England and Scotland. They grouped the study participants — 36,370 people, all 40 years of age or older — into three categories: people who are not very active, those who do a moderate amount of exercising, and those who do the most. Finally, they reviewed the alcohol use among the participants.

Not surprisingly, researchers found that excessive alcohol among participants was linked to a heightened risk of death from all causes. When exercise was factored into their equations, however, their findings took a different turn. They looked at the impact of the recommended amount of weekly exercise for adults, which is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. That includes brisk walking, swimming and other activities.

Exercising as recommended “appeared to wipe off completely” the higher risk of cancer death resulting from alcohol, said Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis, senior author of the study, which appears in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Regular physical activity also offset the increased risk of other causes of death linked to excessive drinking. Exercising beyond the recommended amount provided slightly better results.

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