Muscle density predicts risk of hospitalization

Muscle density is the ratio of lean tissue to fat contained within muscle

Elderly Women At Risk

Elderly Women At Risk

A study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute indicated that elderly with low muscle density have a higher likelihood of being hospitalized than those with a more moderate ratio and suggests it may be a better predictor of the risk of hospitalization than muscle mass or size

New research suggests exercise programs designed to increase muscle density in the elderly could help reduce rates of disability and hospitalization. Researchers  studied 3,011 healthy U.S. residents, aged 70 to 80. During about a five-year span, more than 55 percent of them were hospitalized at least once. People most likely to be hospitalized were those who scored lowest on measures of physical function, such as walking speed, ability to stand up from a chair repeatedly, grip strength and leg strength.

In a study published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers also found that people with the least dense thigh muscles — meaning more fat than lean tissue — were more likely to be hospitalized than those with more dense thigh muscles.

“Our research suggests that we need to re-think the way we define sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss,” study author Peggy Cawthon, a scientist with the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, said in a news release from the American Geriatrics Society. “Many definitions of sarcopenia today tend to focus on lean mass or muscle size. Our study shows that is looking at the wrong factors. We found that muscle strength or performance were much better ways of measuring function.”

The findings “suggest that interventions, such as physical exercise, that improve physical function could help keep more vulnerable seniors out of the hospital,” she said. “That would not only reduce disability but it would also reduce the huge economic burden associated with hospitalization of the elderly.”

One in five Americans older than 65 has sarcopenia. In 2000, the direct costs of treating the condition were more than $18.5 billion, according to background information in the news release.

The team analyzed more than 3,000 healthy seniors aged between 70 and 80 for an average of five years and looked at factors such as their walking speeds, ability to stand up repeatedly and leg strength. They found that the largest number of hospitalizations occurred among those with the least dense muscles.

Dr. Peggy Cawthon, the study’s lead author, says the findings are important because they suggest non-pharmacological and non-surgical approaches such as enhanced physical activity or moderate exercise may help keep vulnerable seniors out of hospital.

A high-protein diet or appropriate supplementation may also be useful for some seniors at risk of low muscle density.

Source for Additional Information:

Bone density and risk of hip fracture in men and women: cross sectional analysis

bmj.com
CEDHD Laet, BA Hout, H Burger, A Hofman, … – British Medical Journal, 1997 – bmj.com
BMJ 1997;315:221-225 (26 July) Papers. Bone density and risk of hip fracture
in men and women: cross sectional analysis. Chris EDH

Forbes: Muscle Density Linked to Disability

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about the physical effects of aging.

ADNFCR-1961-ID-19343380-ADNFCR

PG

Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.