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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2000 Sep;48(9):1102-10.

Characteristics of nondisabled older persons who perform poorly in objective tests of lower extremity function.

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Geriatric Department, I Fraticini, National Research Institute INRCA, Florence, Italy.



It has been suggested that nondisabled older persons with poor performance of lower extremity function are ideal targets for interventions of disability prevention. However, health-related factors associated with poor performance are largely unknown. Using data from a representative sample of nondisabled older persons, this study identifies the diseases and biological markers that characterize this group of the population.


A total of 3,381 persons aged 71 or older, interviewed and administered a battery of physical performance tests at the sixth annual follow-up of the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (EPESE), who reported no need for help in walking 1/4 mile or climbing stairs.


Lower extremity performance was measured using a short battery of tests including assessment of standing balance, a timed 2.4-m walk, and timed test of rising 5 times from a chair. Chronic conditions were ascertained as self-report of a physician diagnosis. Data on previous hospitalizations were obtained from the Medicare database. Nonfasting blood samples were obtained and processed with standard methods.


In a multivariate analysis, older age, female gender, higher BMI, history of hip fracture and diabetes, one or more hospital admissions for acute infection in the last 3 years, lower levels of hemoglobin and albumin, and higher leukocytes and gamma-glutamyl transferase were all associated independently with poor performance.


Screening for older patients who are not disabled but have poor lower extremity performance selects a subgroup of the population with a high percentage of women, high prevalence of diabetes and hip fracture, and high levels of biological markers of inflammation. This group represents about 10% of the US population 70 to 90 years old. These findings should be considered in planning specifically tailored interventions for disability prevention in this subgroup.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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