High levels of thyroid hormone may put older adults at risk for heart disease and death, new research shows.

In the Dutch study, published Tuesday in Circulation Research, middle-age and older people with high or high-normal levels of a thyroid hormone called FT4 had double the odds of high coronary artery calcification scores, an indicator of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Elevated FT4 levels were also associated with an 87 percent higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack and double the risk of atherosclerosis-related death. FT4 is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland that helps control the rate at which the body uses energy.

“Our findings suggest that thyroid hormone FT4 measurement can help identify individuals at increased risk of atherosclerosis,” the study’s lead researcher Arjola Bano, M.D., D.Sc., said in a news release.

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“Future studies should clarify the exact mechanisms that can explain the link between thyroid function and atherosclerosis. This could help to identify potential targets for future preventative strategies,” said Bano, a researcher in internal medicine and epidemiology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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