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July 20, 1979

The Aging ThyroidIncreased Prevalence of Elevated Serum Thyrotropin Levels in the Elderly

Author Affiliations

From the Medical Services, Boston Veterans Administration Hospital (Drs Sawin and Chopra, Ms Bacharach), St Elizabeth's Hospital (Dr Azizi, Ms Mannix), and the Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.

JAMA. 1979;242(3):247-250. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300030019013

Of 344 relatively healthy persons older than 60 years, 22 (5.9%) had a clearly elevated level of serum thyrotropin (TSH) (>10 μU/mL), a finding more common in women than in men. Ten of the 22 had low values for serum thyroxine (T4) and free T4 (FT4) index, but only one had a low value for serum triiodothyronine (T3) or free T3 (FT3) index. A further 14.4% had a slightly elevated level of serum TSH (>5≤10 μU/mL), but none had low values for serum T4 or FT4 index. Age alone has little effect on the measurements of T4; age is associated with slightly lower T3 levels, but only in men 60 years or older or in women 80 years or older. Longitudinal studies should determine if a slightly elevated serum TSH rises further with age and if there is a causal relationship between a high level of serum TSH and cardiovascular disease.

(JAMA 242:247-250, 1979)