BACKGROUND: Previous studies have suggested that minor changes in thyroid function are associated with risk of atrial fibrillation (AF). Our objective was to determine the relationship between thyroid function and presence of atrial fibrillation (AF) in older subjects. METHODS: A population-based study of 5860 subjects 65 years and older, which excluded those being treated for thyroid dysfunction and those with previous hyperthyroidism. Main outcome measures included tests of thyroid function (serum free thyroxine [T(4)] and thyrotropin [TSH]) and the presence of AF on resting electrocardiogram. RESULTS: Fourteen subjects (0.2%) had previously undiagnosed overt hyperthyroidism and 126 (2.2%), subclinical hyperthyroidism; 5519 (94.4%) were euthyroid; and 167 (2.9%) had subclinical hypothyroidism and 23 (0.4%), overt hypothyroidism. The prevalence of AF in the whole cohort was 6.6% in men and 3.1% in women (odds ratio, 2.23; P<.001). After adjusting for sex, logistic regression showed a higher prevalence of AF in those with subclinical hyperthyroidism compared with euthyroid subjects (9.5% vs 4.7%; adjusted odds ratio, 2.27; P=.01). Median serum free T(4) concentration was higher in those with AF than in those without (1.14 ng/dL; interquartile range [IQR], 1.05-1.27 ng/dL [14.7 pmol/L; IQR, 13.5-16.4 pmol/L] vs 1.10 ng/dL; IQR, 1.00-1.22 ng/dL [14.2 pmol/L; IQR, 12.9-15.7 pmol/L]; P<.001), and higher in those with AF when analysis was limited to euthyroid subjects (1.13 ng/dL; IQR, 1.05-1.26 ng/dL [14.6 pmol/L; IQR, 13.5-16.2 pmol/L] vs 1.10 ng/dL; IQR, 1.01-1.21 ng/dL [14.2 pmol/L; IQR, 13.0-15.6 pmol/L]; P=.001). Logistic regression showed serum free T(4) concentration, increasing category of age, and male sex all to be independently associated with AF. Similar independent associations were observed when analysis was confined to euthyroid subjects with normal TSH values. CONCLUSIONS: The biochemical finding of subclinical hyperthyroidism is associated with AF on resting electrocardiogram. Even in euthyroid subjects with normal serum TSH levels, serum free T(4) concentration is independently associated with AF.

Original publication




Journal article


Arch Intern Med

Publication Date





928 - 934


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Atrial Fibrillation, Cohort Studies, Electrocardiography, Female, Humans, Male, Odds Ratio, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Thyroid Function Tests, Thyrotropin, Thyroxine, Triiodothyronine