The Unexpected Link Between Hypothyroidism And Dementia

With more than 55 million people living with dementia worldwide, the World Health Organization lists it as one of its priorities in public health. Since there is no known cure for dementia, researchers are looking into the many risk factors that might result in a dementia diagnosis. According to a recent study in Neurology, a hypothyroidism diagnosis might result in a greater likelihood of developing dementia.

The study matched more than 7,000 adults who were diagnosed with dementia with a similar group of adults who did not have the diagnosis. After controlling for other factors such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and hearing issues, the researchers found that those who had a history of hypothyroidism were 81% more likely to have dementia. If the patient took hormone replacement therapy to treat hypothyroidism, that patient was three times more likely to develop dementia.

Because the study looked only at patients' data, the researchers couldn't conclude that hyperthyroidism causes dementia, according to a press release about the study. Of the more than 7,000 adults who had a dementia diagnosis, less than one percent also had a history of hypothyroidism. They also didn't determine that the hormone replacement medication didn't cause dementia.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones to convert food into energy, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Because your thyroid regulates your metabolism, your body temperature and heart rate can also be affected. If your thyroid levels get too low, you might experience intolerance to cold temperatures, body aches, depression, fatigue, and weight gain. It can also cause confusion and memory problems.

Hypothyroidism is common in women over 60, and there is no cure, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You can treat hyperthyroidism through medication if it's detected early. Although iodine can boost hormone levels, the Western diet of eggs, dairy, and protein already is rich in iodine, so you should avoid adjusting your diet unless it's approved by your doctor.

The Mayo Clinic says that if your hypothyroidism case has mild or no symptoms, you might not need medication. However, you need to monitor a hypothyroidism diagnosis for a few months to see if your thyroid restores to functioning normally on its own.