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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1999 May;54(5):M230-6.

Reported and measured physical functioning in older inner-city diabetic African Americans.

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Division of Geriatric Medicine, St. Louis University, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, St. Louis VA Medical Center, Missouri 63104, USA.



The impact of diabetes on disability and physical functioning in older African Americans and potential causes of the excessive disability associated with diabetes in other studies have been inadequately investigated.


A population-based survey was performed comparing 116 self-reported diabetic inner-city African Americans aged 70 years and older to 522 nondiabetic persons from the same population. A subsample (n = 168) received a physical examination focused on body habitus, upper and lower body strength, balance, and timed physical performance tasks. Blood tests were obtained from 173 subjects.


Diabetic individuals reported worse general health (p = .01), instrumental activities of daily living (p = .02), and modified versions of the Rosow-Breslau scale (p<.001) and the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire (p = .002). Diabetic persons also reported more falls (0.59 per person vs. 0.20, p = .019) and injurious falls (12% vs. 6%, p = .025). There were minimal differences in the strength, balance, and timed performance measures (analyzed separately by gender). In multivariable analyses, impairments in visual function and pain and light touch perception appeared to explain some of the association between diabetic status and poor general health, disability, and falls, with lesser contribution from the number of medical problems, number of medications, and glycemic control.


Older inner-city diabetic blacks demonstrated worse general health, excess disability, and more falls compared to controls, although deficits in strength, balance, and timed performance could not be demonstrated. The cause of decreased functional status in diabetic elders deserves additional investigation, focusing especially on sensory function, glycemic control, and contribution from specific medical problems and medications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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