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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Dec;57(12):M772-7.

Prevalence of sarcopenia and predictors of skeletal muscle mass in healthy, older men and women.

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Center on Aging, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06030, USA.



Sarcopenia refers to the loss of skeletal muscle mass with age. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of sarcopenia in a population of older, community-dwelling research volunteers.


Appendicular skeletal muscle mass was measured by dual x-ray absorptiometry in 195 women aged 64 to 93 years and 142 men aged 64 to 92 years. We defined sarcopenia as appendicular skeletal muscle mass/height(2) (square meters) less than 2 standard deviations below the mean for young, healthy reference populations. We used two different reference populations and compared prevalence in our population to that reported in previous studies. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated and physical activity and performance were measured with the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly, the Short Physical Performance Battery, and the Physical Performance Test. We measured health-related quality of life by using the SF-36 general health survey. Serum estrone, estradiol, sex hormone-binding globulin, parathyroid hormone, and 25-hydroxy vitamin D were measured in all participants and bioavailable testosterone was measured only in men. Leg press strength and leg press power were determined in men.


The prevalence of sarcopenia in our cohort was 22.6% in women and 26.8% in men. A subgroup analysis of women and men 80 years or older revealed prevalence rates of 31.0% and 52.9%, respectively. In women, skeletal muscle mass correlated significantly with BMI and levels of serum estrone, estradiol, and 25-hydroxy vitamin D; in men, it correlated significantly with BMI, single leg stance time, leg press strength, leg press power, SF-36 general health score, Physical Performance Test total score, and bioavailable testosterone levels. With the use of linear regression analysis, BMI was the only predictor of appendicular skeletal muscle mass in women, accounting for 47.9% of the variance (p <.05). In men, BMI accounted for 50.1%, mean strength accounted for 10.3%, mean power accounted for 4.1%, and bioavailable testosterone accounted for 2.6% of the variance in appendicular skeletal muscle mass (p <.05).


Sarcopenia is common in adults over the age of 65 years and increases with age. BMI is a strong predictor of skeletal muscle mass in women and men. Strength, power, and bioavailable testosterone are further contributors in men. These data suggest that interventions to target nutrition, strength training, and testosterone replacement therapy should be further investigated for their role in preventing muscle loss with age.

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