Context: Recent studies suggest that thyroid disease is associated with cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disease. However, little is known about the underlying pathophysiology and the relation with cerebrovascular disease or brain atrophy in the elderly. Objective: To determine if plasma thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are associated with vascular brain changes and cortical atrophy in the elderly. Design/Community based, cross-sectional study. Participants and Setting: 268 participants of the Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly Study, 65-83 years of age and without contraindications for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Main Outcome Measures: The presence of brain lesions and atrophy was determined using a standardized MRI protocol, an established rating scale and a single rater. Plasma TSH levels were assessed using standard laboratory methods. The association between plasma TSH levels and MRI findings was analyzed using logistic and linear regression models. Results: Higher TSH levels within the normal clinical range were significantly associated with severer cortical atrophy (p = 0.04) and a higher proportion of infarct-like vascular lesions (p = 0.005) in men. These associations were independent of potential confounders, including thyroid hormone therapy, in multivariable regression analysis. No association between plasma TSH levels and both MRI outcomes were observed in women. In addition, neither in men nor in women was an association between TSH levels and white-matter lesions found. Conclusions: Increasing TSH levels even within the normal clinical range are associated with severer brain atrophy and infarct-like vascular lesions in elderly men. Copyright

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Reitz, C., Kretzschmar, K., Roesler, A., von Eckardstein, A., & Berger, K. (2006). Relation of plasma thyroid-stimulating hormone levels to vascular lesions and atrophy of the brain in the elderly. Neuroepidemiology, 27(2), 89–95. doi:10.1159/000095244