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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2014 Jun;69(6):751-8. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glt131. Epub 2013 Sep 7.

Transition to sarcopenia and determinants of transitions in older adults: a population-based study.

Author information

  • 1Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel.murphy@nih.gov.
  • 2Department of Biostatistical Sciences, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
  • 3Department of Epidemiology, Center for Aging and Population Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • 4California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, San Francisco.
  • 5Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis.
  • 6Department of Health Sciences, VU University and the EMGO Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 7Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • 8Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland.



Diagnostic criteria for sarcopenia from appendicular lean mass (ALM), strength, and performance have been proposed, but little is known regarding the progression of sarcopenia. We examined the time course of sarcopenia and determinants of transitioning toward and away from sarcopenia.


ALM, gait speed, and grip strength were assessed seven times over 9 years in 2,928 initially well-functioning adults aged 70-79. Low ALM was defined as less than 7.95 kg/m(2) (men) or less than 6.24 kg/m(2) (women), low performance as gait speed less than 1.0 m/s, low strength as grip strength less than 30 kg (men) or less than 20 kg (women). Presarcopenia was defined as low ALM and sarcopenia as low ALM with low performance or low strength. Hidden Markov modeling was used to characterize states of ALM, strength, and performance and model transitions leading to sarcopenia and death. Determinants of transitioning toward and away from sarcopenia were examined with logistic regression.


Initially, 54% of participants had normal ALM, strength, and performance; 21% had presarcopenia; 5% had sarcopenia; and 20% had intermediate characteristics. Of participants with normal ALM, strength, and performance, 1% transitioned to presarcopenia and none transitioned to sarcopenia. The greatest transition to sarcopenia (7%) was in presarcopenic individuals. Low-functioning and sarcopenia states were more likely to lead to death (12% and 13%). Higher body mass index (p < .001) and pain (p = .05) predicted transition toward sarcopenia, whereas moderate activity predicted transition from presarcopenia to more normal states (p = .02).


Pain, physical activity, and body mass index, potentially modifiable factors, are determinants of transitions. Promotion of health approaching old age is important as few individuals transition away from their initial state.

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Gerontological Society of America 2013.


Aging; Epidemiology.; Muscle; Physical function; Sarcopenia

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
[Available on 2015/6/1]
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