We studied the levels of cardiovascular risk factors in a population sample of 511 men and 920 women aged 65-74 years and living in East Finland. Altogether 312 men and 515 women had normal glucose tolerance, 84 men and 158 women impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 33 men and 59 women newly diagnosed non-insulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM) detected at the survey, and 82 men and 188 women previously diagnosed NIDDM. Subjects with IGT or newly diagnosed NIDDM had higher levels of total triglycerides and apolipoprotein B and lower levels of HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 than subjects with normal glucose tolerance, similarly as in previously diagnosed NIDDM. Furthermore, subjects with IGT or newly diagnosed NIDDM were more obese, had higher waist-hip ratio, and more frequently hypertension than subjects with normal glucose tolerance. Thus, asymptomatic hyperglycemia in the elderly is not a benign phenomenon, but is associated with similar adverse changes in cardiovascular risk factors as in middle-aged subjects.