The overdiagnosis of subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) in the elderly has driven researchers to establish age-specific thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) intervals to precisely evaluate the prevalence of SCH. Moreover, abnormal lipid profiles, an insidious manifestation of SCH, show various impacts on different age groups. This study aimed to establish an age-specific TSH reference range to clarify the spectrum of SCH in the elderly. The prevalence of dyslipidemia and the age-specific association between TSH and lipid profiles were analyzed to elucidate the relationship between SCH and dyslipidemia. This cross-sectional study enrolled 2460 participants aged ≥ 65 years via cluster sampling. All participants received physical, laboratory tests and thyroid ultrasound examination and completed the questionnaire. The chi-square test was used to analyze variations of dyslipidemia prevalence among different groups. The Cochran-Armitage trend test was applied for testing the linear trends of age-specific prevalence of dyslipidemia among different TSH intervals in each age group. After adjusting for confounding factors, the age-specific association between TSH and lipid profiles was identified using multi-variate linear regression analysis. The TSH reference ranges in the 65-70 age group, 71-80 age group and > 80 age group were 0.65-5.51 mIU/L, 0.85-5.89 mIU/L and 0.78-6.70 mIU/L, respectively. Using these age-specific reference ranges, the prevalence of SCH in the whole population was 3.74%, which was significantly lower than the prevalence based on the laboratory reference range (10.28%). In the 65-70 age group, only the prevalence of high total cholesterol (TC) increased significantly with the age-specific TSH intervals, and TSH was positively associated with TC and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). In the 71-80 and > 80 age groups, the prevalence of high TC, high triglycerides (TGs), and high LDL-C increased significantly with elevated TSH reference ranges. The levels of TC, TGs, and LDL-C were also positively associated with TSH level in 71-80 age group. However, such an association disappeared in > 80 age group. An age-specific reference range for TSH can effectively prevent the overdiagnosis of SCH in the elderly. Aging could somewhat attenuate the impact of TSH on lipid profiles.© 2022. The Author(s).
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