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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Jul;66(7):809-14. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glr063. Epub 2011 May 31.

Predictors of thyroid hormone initiation in older adults: results from the cardiovascular health study.

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Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA.



Despite widespread use, there are no data on initiation of thyroid hormone use in older people. We report the prevalence of thyroid hormone use and predictors of thyroid hormone initiation in a population of older men and women.


Thyroid hormone medication data were collected annually from 1989 to 2006 in community-dwelling individuals aged 65 years and older enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study (N = 5,888). Associations of age, sex, race, body mass index, education, and coronary heart disease with initiation were evaluated using discrete-time survival analysis.


In 1989-1990, 8.9% (95% confidence interval 8.1%-9.7%) of participants were taking a thyroid hormone preparation, increasing to 20.0% (95% confidence interval 8.2%-21.8%) over 16 years. The average initiation rate was 1% per year. The initiation rate was nonlinear with age, and those aged 85 years and older initiated thyroid hormone more than twice as frequently as those aged 65-69 years (hazard ratio = 2.34; 95% confidence interval 1.43-3.85). White women were more likely to initiate thyroid hormone than any other race and sex group. Higher body mass index was independently associated with higher risk for initiation (p = .002) as was greater education (p = .02) and prevalent coronary heart disease (p = .03).


Thyroid hormone use is common in older people. The indications and benefits of thyroid hormone use in older individuals with the highest rate of thyroid hormone initiation-the oldest old, overweight and obese individuals, and those with coronary heart disease-should be investigated.

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