Biomarkers related to aging in human populations

Adv Clin Chem. 2008;46:161-216. doi: 10.1016/s0065-2423(08)00405-8.


Biomarkers are increasingly employed in empirical studies of human populations to understand physiological processes that change with age, diseases whose onset appears linked to age, and the aging process itself. In this chapter, we describe some of the most commonly used biomarkers in population aging research, including their collection, associations with other markers, and relationships to health outcomes. We discuss biomarkers of the cardiovascular system, metabolic processes, inflammation, activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and organ functioning (including kidney, lung, and heart). In addition, we note that markers of functioning of the central nervous system and genetic markers are now becoming part of population measurement. Where possible, we detail interrelationships between these markers by providing correlations between high risk levels of each marker from three population-based surveys: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III, NHANES 1999-2002, and the MacArthur Study of Successful Aging. NHANES III is used instead of NHANES 1999-2002 when specific markers of interest are available only in NHANES III and when we examine the relationship of biomarkers to mortality which is only known for NHANES III. We also describe summary measures combining biomarkers across systems. Finally, we examine associations between individual markers and mortality and provide information about biomarkers of growing interest for future research in population aging and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging* / genetics
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Mass Index
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Catecholamines / urine
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Lipids / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Catecholamines
  • Genetic Markers
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipids
  • C-Reactive Protein