OBJECTIVES: Several peripheral blood markers of inflammation have demonstrated prognostic ability, but the value of combining multiple markers as a measure of inflammatory burden remains unknown. The objective of this study was to determine the prognostic value of combining four peripheral blood measures of inflammation in healthy older persons. DESIGN: Inception cohort study with 7 years of follow-up. SETTING: Three communities. PARTICIPANTS: Eight hundred seventy high-functioning subjects aged 70 to 79 who had serum albumin, cholesterol, interleukin (IL)-6, and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels measured at baseline. MEASUREMENTS: Three- and 7-year mortality and Rosow- Breslau functional decline. RESULTS: A summary score was created that assigned one point each for the following blood levels: albumin 3.8 pg/mL (top tertile), and CRP>2.65 mg/L (top tertile). By 3 years, 6% of subjects had died, and, by 7 years, 23% had died. In subjects with three or four markers of inflammation, the adjusted odds ratios (AORs) for 3- and 7-year mortality were 6.6 and 3.2, respectively, compared with those who had no abnormal markers. Subjects with one or two markers were at more moderate and statistically insignificant increased risk of 3- and 7-year mortality with AORs of 1.5 and 1.3, respectively. The risks for functional decline at 3- and 7-years were generally small (AOR = 1.1-1.9) and not statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS: In high-functioning older persons, a measure of inflammation can identify those at a much higher risk of mortality and a possibly higher risk of functional decline. Whether therapies directed at reducing inflammation can attenuate such risk remains to be determined.
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