Thyrotrophin levels and coronary artery calcification: Cross-sectional results of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil)

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2017 Nov;87(5):597-604. doi: 10.1111/cen.13393. Epub 2017 Jul 6.


Objective: There is little information about the association between thyrotrophin (TSH) levels and coronary artery calcification (CAC). Our aim was to analyse the association between TSH quintiles and subclinical atherosclerosis measured by CAC, using baseline data from the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil).

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Patients: We excluded individuals using medications that affect thyroid function and who self-reported cardiovascular disease. We included euthyroid subjects and individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism (SCHypo) and subclinical hyperthyroidism (SCHyper). Logistic regression models evaluated CAC >100 Agatston units as the dependent variable, and increasing quintiles of TSH as the independent variable, adjusted for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors.

Results: Our sample included 3836 subjects, mean age 49 years (interquartile range 44-56); 1999 (52.1%) were female, 3551 (92.6%) were euthyroid, 239 (6.2%) had SCHypo and 46 (1.2%) had SCHyper. The frequency of women, White people and never smokers as well as body mass index and insulin resistance increased according to quintiles. The 1st quintile for TSH (0-0.99 mIU/L) was associated with CAC >100, using the 3rd quintile (1.39-1.85 mIU/L) as reference (adjusted OR=1.57, 95% CI: 1.05-2.35, P=.027), but no association was shown for the 5th quintile (2.68-35.5 mIU/L) compared to the 3rd. Restricting the analysis to euthyroid subjects did not change the results. For women, but not for men, we observed a U-shaped curve with 1st and 5th TSH quintiles associated with CAC>100.

Conclusion: Low and low-normal (1st quintile) TSH levels were associated with CAC>100 Agatston units in a sample with subclinical thyroid disorders and euthyroid subjects.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; coronary artery calcification; subclinical atherosclerosis; subclinical hyperthyroidism; subclinical hypothyroidism; subclinical thyroid disease; thyroid disorders; thyrotrophin levels.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology
  • Brazil
  • Calcinosis*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / blood*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / metabolism
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Thyrotropin / blood*


  • Thyrotropin