OBJECTIVE: To analyze in out clinic elderly patients of both sexes for the prevalence of risk factors for atherosclerosis and study their association with the complications of atherosclerosis. METHODS: Five hundred and sixteen outpatients, 152 men and 364 women, 60 years or older, were studied. The prevalences of hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, cigarette smoking and obesity were determined in both sexes and compared using the chi-square test. The association between these factors and the presence of atherosclerotic complications was analyzed by logistic regression. RESULTS: The comparative analysis of the factors in both sexes showed that hypertension, total cholesterol > or = 240mg/dL, LDL-cholesterol > or = 160mg/dL, and body mass index >27.5 were more frequent among women, but HDL-cholesterol <35mg/dL and cigarette smoking were more frequent among men, and no difference occurred between sexes in relation to the frequency of triglycerides > or = 250mg/dL and diabetes mellitus. After adjustment of the variables in the regression model, we observed that in the total of elderly patients, risk factors for complications of atherosclerosis were: triglycerides > or = 250mg/dL, hypertension, and male sex. Among men, the risk factors were: LDL-cholesterol > or = 160mg/dL, diabetes mellitus, HDL-cholesterol <35mg/dL and hypertension. Among women, the risk factors were: tryglicerides > or = 250mg/dL and hypertension. CONCLUSION: The results showed that, in the elderly, the risk factors for atherosclerosis persist, but with different behaviors between men and women. The study suggests that the relative importance of the risk factors can change with the aging process.