Harvard Health Letter

Medications: No more than necessary

1. Thyroid medicine

People take levothyroxine (Levothroid, Synthroid, other brands), a synthetic version of thyroid hormone, when their thyroid glands don't produce enough of the hormone naturally. Many start taking thyroid medicine when they're relatively young, so by the time they're older, they've been on thyroid medicine for years, if not decades.

With age, the body's need for thyroid hormone decreases. So in many cases, if an older person sticks with the dose she took when she was younger, she may be taking too much thyroid medicine. Yet patients (and their doctors) often like the higher doses, because thyroid medicine helps people keep weight off and may also have an antidepressant effect.

Now some research is showing there may, in fact, be a serious drawback to those higher-than-needed doses: a significantly greater risk of breaking a bone — perhaps especially a hip.

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