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The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 55:M649-M657 (2000)
© 2000 The Gerontological Society of America

Age, Functional Status, and Racial Differences in Plasma D-Dimer Levels in Community-Dwelling Elderly Persons

Carl F. Piepera,b,c, K. Murali K. Raod, Mark S. Curried,e, Tamara B. Harrisf and Harvey J. Cohena,c,d

a Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development
b Department of Community and Family Health, Division of Biometry
c Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
d Duke University Medical Center, Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center, VA Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
e Lewis-Gale Clinic, Salem, Virginia
f The National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Washington, DC.

Carl F. Pieper, Box 3003, Center for Aging and Human Development, DUMC, Durham, NC 27710 E-mail: cfp{at}

Decision Editor: William B. Ershler, MD


Dysregulation of immunologic and coagulation systems is common in elderly persons and is associated with many diseases of aging. Thrombotic events are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the elderly population. This study assesses whether D-dimer, a marker of fibrinolytic activity, varies systematically by demographic, health, and functional measures, and derives a prediction model for factors related to D-dimer in a sample of community-dwelling elderly persons.


D-dimer levels were assessed in a random sample of 1,727 community-dwelling elderly persons from five rural and urban counties in North Carolina in 1992, as part of the Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (Duke University). All subjects were 72 years or older at the time of the blood draw. In addition, all subjects were surveyed yearly by telephone or in person each year from 1986 to 1992 for a variety of health, functional, and social factors. Levels of D-dimer in 1992 were related cross-sectionally to demographics (age, race, education, income, gender, smoking), function (Nagi, Rosow-Breslau, Katz, Older Americans Resources and Services procedures instrumental activities of daily living), life satisfaction and self-rated health, self-reported diseases (heart attack, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension), and weight change from 1986 to 1992.


D-dimer levels increased with increasing age and functional disability. Among the health variables, only high blood pressure was predictive of D-dimer level. D-dimer levels were dramatically higher in blacks. Blacks were nearly four times more likely to have an extreme value of D-dimer (>600 µg/l) than whites when high D-dimer (yes/no) was analyzed, and blacks had an average level that was nearly 40% higher than whites in analyses of the continuous version of the outcome. This racial effect was not substantively affected in multivariable analyses with demographic and socioeconomic variables controlled. Race, age, functional status, current smoking, high blood pressure, and weight loss were related to level of D-dimer, and race, age, and functional status were related to the presence of a high D-dimer level (in the top 10% of the sample).


Black, older, and functionally impaired persons had significantly higher levels of D-dimer in this sample of community-dwelling elderly persons. The findings for race were particularly striking and persisted even after controlling for smoking and other factors known to be related to thrombosis and were not mediated by social factors. This result may contribute to our understanding of the increased levels of thrombotic events found in these groups.

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