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Aging Dis. 2012 April; 3(2): 156–163.
Published online 2011 September 22.
PMCID: PMC3377827

Differential Age-related Changes in Bone Geometry between the Humerus and the Femur in Healthy Men

Abstract

Muscle pull and weight-bearing are key mechanical determinants of bone geometry which is an important feature of bone strength that declines with adult aging. However, the relative importance of these determinants in young and old adults has not been evaluated systematically. To differentiate the influence of each type of mechanical loading we compared humeral and femoral bone shaft geometry and cross-sectional area (CSA) of the arm and thigh muscles in young and old men. Contiguous transverse MRI (Siemens 1.5T) scans of the arm and thigh were made in 10 young men (21.9 ± 1.0 years) and 10 old men (78.1 ± 4.9 years). Image analysis yielded total (TA), cortical (CA) and medullary (MA) CSA of the humeral and femoral shafts, as well as muscle CSA of the corresponding regions of the arm and thigh. Humeral CA was significantly greater in the young, whereas humeral and femoral MA were significantly greater in the older group. Significant correlations were found between arm muscle CSA and humeral CA (r = 0.73); between thigh muscle CSA and femoral CA (r = 0.69); and between body mass and femoral CA (r = 0.63) and TA (r = 0.55). Moderate correlations between muscle CSA and CA suggest that muscle pull is an important determinant of bone geometry. The significant difference observed between young and old in humeral, but not femoral CA, and the correlation between body mass and femoral, but not humeral cortical area, suggests that weight-bearing attenuates bone loss associated with adult aging.

Keywords: Aging, Femur, Humerus, Osteopenia, Osteoporosis, Muscle

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