U.S. Seniors Losing Grip on Muscle Strength - Signs of frailty seen as early as age 60.
The first national survey on grip strength in older adults found that 5% of those over 60 had weak muscle strength, and 13% had intermediate strength.
According to data collected in 2011-2012, weak and intermediate strength (considered reduced) increased with age, while normal strength declined with age, wrote Anne Looker, PhD, and Chia-Yih Wang, PhD, of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in Atlanta.
The data were generated using criteria developed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) Sarcopenia Project. The findings may help clinicians identify those who will be at greater risk for impaired mobility, the authors stated in an NCHS Data Brief.
"We have tried to identify ahead of time those most at risk for developing the kind of disabilities and problems that are going to make them not be able to live independently anymore," said Looker in an interview with MedPage Today. "Our numbers give people some ideas of what the size of the problem is."
Looker and Wang used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which used interviews and a grip strength dynamometer to measure muscle weakness. Weak muscle strength was defined as a maximum hand grip strength of less than 26 kg for men and less than 16 kg for women.
Among those over 80, 19% had weak strength and 34% had intermediate strength. Asians and Hispanics had a higher prevalence of reduced muscle strength than did white people. Men and women were at equal risk except in the above 80 category, in which women were at greater risk than men for muscle weakness (22% versus 15%).
Muscle weakness has been associated with slower gait speed, the authors noted. Not surprisingly, they found that it was also associated with greater difficulty getting out of a chair. The criteria used in the study were presented last year by the NIH Sarcopenia Project. Looker said she hopes the new criteria will signal who is at risk of becoming prematurely disabled.
"It would then be possible to, depending on what the cause is, intervene and help them avoid these difficult and bad outcomes," she said.
Looker also noted that muscle weakness doesn't seem to relate to the amount of muscle. "It started out that this was just an issue of how much muscle you had, but in recent years they've found that it doesn't really link all that well to developing problems in the future," she said. "It's really more related to things like muscle strength."