the cohort study was initiated in 1997 to investigate the incidence and predictors of health outcomes in an elderly population with low socio-economic level. the eligible population consisted of all 1,742 residents in bambuí, minas gerais state, brazil, aged 60 years and over (1,606 participated). during 10 years of follow-up, 641 participants died and 96 were lost, leading to 13,739 person-years of observation. the baseline health profile of participants revealed a double burden of diseases with high prevalence of chronic non-transmissible diseases and widespread trypanosoma cruzi infection. the most common health condition was hypertension (61.5%), followed by chronic knee or hand symptoms (43.6%), common mental disorders (38.5%), t. cruzi infection (38.1%), and insomnia (36.7%). in general, the baseline prevalence of mental symptoms and cardiovascular diseases or risk factors was comparable to those found in populations in high income countries.