Epidemiological studies have shown that weaker grip strength in later life is associated with disability, morbidity, and mortality. Grip strength is a key component of the sarcopenia and frailty phenotypes and yet it is unclear how individual measurements should be interpreted. Our objective was to produce cross-sectional centile values for grip strength across the life course. A secondary objective was to examine the impact of different aspects of measurement protocol.
We combined 60,803 observations from 49,964 participants (26,687 female) of 12 general population studies in Great Britain. We produced centile curves for ages 4 to 90 and investigated the prevalence of weak grip, defined as strength at least 2.5 SDs below the gender-specific peak mean. We carried out a series of sensitivity analyses to assess the impact of dynamometer type and measurement position (seated or standing).
Our results suggested three overall periods: an increase to peak in early adult life, maintenance through to midlife, and decline from midlife onwards. Males were on average stronger than females from adolescence onwards: males’ peak median grip was 51 kg between ages 29 and 39, compared to 31 kg in females between ages 26 and 42. Weak grip strength, defined as strength at least 2.5 SDs below the gender-specific peak mean, increased sharply with age, reaching a prevalence of 23% in males and 27% in females by age 80. Sensitivity analyses suggested our findings were robust to differences in dynamometer type and measurement position.
This is the first study to provide normative data for grip strength across the life course. These centile values have the potential to inform the clinical assessment of grip strength which is recognised as an important part of the identification of people with sarcopenia and frailty.
Objective measures of physical capability are being used in a growing number of studies as biomarkers of healthy ageing. However, very little research has been done to assess the impact of physical capability on subsequent positive mental wellbeing, the maintenance of which is widely considered to be an essential component of healthy ageing. We aimed to test the associations of grip strength and walking, timed get up and go and chair rise speeds (assessed at ages 53 to 82 years) with positive mental wellbeing assessed using the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) five to ten years later. Data were drawn from five British cohorts participating in the HALCyon research collaboration. Data from each study were analysed separately and then combined using random-effects meta-analyses. Higher levels of physical capability were consistently associated with higher subsequent levels of wellbeing; for example, a 1SD increase in grip strength was associated with an age and sex-adjusted mean difference in WEMWBS score of 0.81 (0.25, 1.37), equivalent to 10% of a standard deviation (3 studies, N=3,096). When adjusted for body size, health status, living alone, socioeconomic position and neuroticism the associations remained albeit attenuated. The finding of these consistent modest associations across five studies, spanning early and later old age, highlights the importance of maintaining physical capability in later life and provides additional justification for using objective measures of physical capability as markers of healthy ageing.
physical capability; positive mental wellbeing; grip strength; walking speed; chair rise time
The APOE ε2/3/4 genotype has been associated with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and Alzheimer disease. However, evidence for associations with measures of cognitive performance in adults without dementia has been mixed, as it is for physical performance. Associations may also be evident in other genotypes implicated in LDL-C levels. As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, genotypic information was obtained for APOE ε2/3/4, rs515135 (APOB), rs2228671 (LDLR) and rs629301 (SORT1) from eight cohorts of adults aged between 44 and 90 + years. We investigated associations with four measures of cognitive (word recall, phonemic fluency, semantic fluency and search speed) and physical capability (grip strength, get up and go/walk speed, timed chair rises and ability to balance) using meta-analyses. Overall, little evidence for associations between any of the genotypes and measures of cognitive capability was observed (e.g. pooled beta for APOE ε4 effect on semantic fluency z score = −0.02; 95 % CI = −0.05 to 0.02; p value = 0.3; n = 18,796). However, there was borderline evidence within studies that negative effects of APOE ε4 on nonverbal ability measures become more apparent with age. Few genotypic associations were observed with physical capability measures. The findings from our large investigation of middle-aged to older adults in the general population suggest that effects of APOE on cognitive capability are at most modest and are domain- and age-specific, while APOE has little influence on physical capability. In addition, other LDL-C-related genotypes have little impact on these traits.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-014-9673-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Ageing; Apolipoprotein E; Cognition; Single nucleotide polymorphism
Telomeres are involved in cellular ageing and shorten with increasing age. If telomere length is a valuable biomarker of ageing, then telomere shortening should be associated with worse physical performance, an ageing trait, but evidence for such an association is lacking. The purpose of this study was to examine whether change in telomere length is associated with physical performance.
Using data from four UK adult cohorts (ages 53–80 years at baseline), we undertook cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. We analysed each study separately and then used meta-analytic methods to pool the results. Physical performance was measured using walking and chair rise speed, standing balance time and grip strength. Telomere length was measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in whole blood at baseline and follow-up (time 1, time 2).
Total sample sizes in meta-analyses ranged from 1,217 to 3,707. There was little evidence that telomere length was associated with walking speed, balance or grip strength, though weak associations were seen with chair rise speed and grip strength at baseline (p = 0.02 and 0.01 respectively). Faster chair rise speed at follow-up, was associated with a smaller decline in telomere length between time 1 and time 2 (standardised coefficient per SD increase 0.061, 95% CI 0.006, 0.115, p = 0.03) but this was consistent with chance (p = 0.08) after further adjustment.
Whereas shortening of leukocyte telomeres might be an important measure of cellular ageing, there is little evidence that it is a strong biomarker for physical performance.
Objective measures of physical capability are being used in a growing number of studies as biomarkers of healthy ageing. However, very little research has been done to assess the impact of physical capability on subsequent positive mental wellbeing, the maintenance of which is widely considered to be an essential component of healthy ageing. We aimed to test the associations of grip strength and walking, timed get up and go and chair rise speeds (assessed at ages 53 to 82 years) with positive mental wellbeing assessed using the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) 5 to 10 years later. Data were drawn from five British cohorts participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course research collaboration. Data from each study were analysed separately and then combined using random-effects meta-analyses. Higher levels of physical capability were consistently associated with higher subsequent levels of wellbeing; for example, a 1SD increase in grip strength was associated with an age and sex-adjusted mean difference in WEMWBS score of 0.81 (0.25, 1.37), equivalent to 10 % of a standard deviation (three studies, N = 3,096). When adjusted for body size, health status, living alone, socioeconomic position and neuroticism the associations remained albeit attenuated. The finding of these consistent modest associations across five studies, spanning early and later old age, highlights the importance of maintaining physical capability in later life and provides additional justification for using objective measures of physical capability as markers of healthy ageing.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-013-9553-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Physical capability; Positive mental wellbeing; Grip strength; Walking speed; Chair rise time
To investigate the associations of body mass index (BMI) and grip strength with objective measures of physical performance (chair rise time, walking speed and balance) including an assessment of sex differences and non-linearity.
Cross-sectional data from eight UK cohort studies (total N = 16 444) participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) research programme, ranging in age from 50 to 90+ years at the time of physical capability assessment, were used. Regression models were fitted within each study and meta-analysis methods used to pool regression coefficients across studies and to assess the extent of heterogeneity between studies.
Higher BMI was associated with poorer performance on chair rise (N = 10 773), walking speed (N = 9 761) and standing balance (N = 13 921) tests. Higher BMI was associated with stronger grip strength in men only. Stronger grip strength was associated with better performance on all tests with a tendency for the associations to be stronger in women than men; for example, walking speed was higher by 0.43 cm/s (0.14, 0.71) more per kg in women than men. Both BMI and grip strength remained independently related with performance after mutual adjustment, but there was no evidence of effect modification. Both BMI and grip strength exhibited non-linear relations with performance; those in the lowest fifth of grip strength and highest fifth of BMI having particularly poor performance. Findings were similar when waist circumference was examined in place of BMI.
Older men and women with weak muscle strength and high BMI have considerably poorer performance than others and associations were observed even in the youngest cohort (age 53). Although causality cannot be inferred from observational cross-sectional studies, our findings suggest the likely benefit of early assessment and interventions to reduce fat mass and improve muscle strength in the prevention of future functional limitations.
Good bone and joint health is essential for the physical tasks of daily living and poorer indicators of physical capability in older adults have been associated with increased mortality rates. Genetic variants of indicators of bone and joint health may be associated with measures of physical capability.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) programme, men and women aged between 52 and 90 + years from six UK cohorts were genotyped for a polymorphism associated with serum calcium (rs1801725, CASR), two polymorphisms associated with bone mineral density (BMD) (rs2941740, ESR1 and rs9594759, RANKL) and one associated with osteoarthritis risk rs3815148 (COG5). Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study effects of the associations between each of the polymorphisms and measures of physical capability: grip strength, timed walk or get up and go, chair rises and standing balance.
Few important associations were observed among the several tests. We found that carriers of the serum calcium-raising allele had poorer grip strength compared with non-carriers (pooled p = 0.05, n = 11,239) after adjusting for age and sex. Inconsistent results were observed for the two variants associated with BMD and we found no evidence for an association between rs3815148 (COG5) and any of the physical capability measures.
Our findings suggest elevated serum calcium levels may lead to lower grip strength, though this requires further replication. Our results do not provide evidence for a substantial influence of these variants in ESR1, RANKL and COG5 on physical capability in older adults.
► We examined associations between bone-related genotypes and physical capability. ► We conducted a meta-analysis on 12,836 middle-age adults. ► We found CASR may be associated with grip strength. ► No substantial support for specific bone mineral density variants and physical capability.
BMD, bone mineral density; OA, osteoarthritis; BMI, body mass index; SNP, single nucleotide polymorphism; CaPS, Caerphilly Prospective Study; ELSA, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing; HAS, Hertfordshire Ageing Study; HCS, Hertfordshire Cohort Study; LBC1921, The Lothian Birth Cohort 1921; NSHD, National Survey of Health and Development; HWE, Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium; WHR, waist–hip ratio; GWAS, genome-wide association studies; Aging; Grip strength; Calcium; Bone mineral density; Osteoarthritis
Several age-related traits are associated with shorter telomeres, the structures that cap the end of linear chromosomes. A common polymorphism near the telomere maintenance gene TERT has been associated with several cancers, but relationships with other ageing traits such as physical capability have not been reported.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women aged between 44 and 90 years from 9 UK cohorts were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs401681. We then investigated relationships between the SNP and 30 age-related phenotypes, including cognitive and physical capability, blood lipid levels and lung function, pooling within-study genotypic effects in meta-analyses.
No significant associations were found between the SNP and any of the cognitive performance tests (e.g. pooled beta per T allele for word recall z-score=0.02, 95% CI: -0.01- 0.04, p-value=0.12, n=18,737), physical performance tests (e.g. pooled beta for grip strength=-0.02, 95% CI:-0.045- 0.006, p-value=0.14, n=11,711), blood pressure, lung function or blood test measures. Similarly, no differences in observations were found when considering follow-up measures of cognitive or physical performance after adjusting for its measure at an earlier assessment.
The lack of associations between SNP rs401681 and a wide range of age-related phenotypes investigated in this large multi-cohort study suggests that whilst this SNP may be associated with cancer, it is not an important contributor to other markers of ageing.
Aging; ageing; middle-aged; telomere; cognition; physical
Low muscle mass and function have been associated with poorer indicators of physical capability in older people, which are in-turn associated with increased mortality rates. The growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor (GH/IGF) axis is involved in muscle function and genetic variants in genes in the axis may influence measures of physical capability.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) programme, men and women from seven UK cohorts aged between 52 and 90 years old were genotyped for six polymorphisms: rs35767 (IGF1), rs7127900 (IGF2), rs2854744 (IGFBP3), rs2943641 (IRS1), rs2665802 (GH1) and the exon-3 deletion of GHR. The polymorphisms have previously been robustly associated with age-related traits or are potentially functional. Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study genotypic effects of the associations between the polymorphisms and four measures of physical capability: grip strength, timed walk or get up and go, chair rises and standing balance.
Few important associations were observed among the several tests. We found evidence that rs2665802 in GH1 was associated with inability to balance for 5 s (pooled odds ratio per minor allele = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.82–0.98, p-value = 0.01, n = 10,748), after adjusting for age and sex. We found no evidence for other associations between the polymorphisms and physical capability traits.
Our findings do not provide evidence for a substantial influence of these common polymorphisms in the GH/IGF axis on objectively measured physical capability levels in older adults.
Using data from eight UK cohorts participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) research programme, with ages at physical capability assessment ranging from 50 to 90+ years, we harmonised data on objective measures of physical capability (i.e. grip strength, chair rising ability, walking speed, timed get up and go, and standing balance performance) and investigated the cross-sectional age and gender differences in these measures. Levels of physical capability were generally lower in study participants of older ages, and men performed better than women (for example, results from meta-analyses (N = 14,213 (5 studies)), found that men had 12.62 kg (11.34, 13.90) higher grip strength than women after adjustment for age and body size), although for walking speed, this gender difference was attenuated after adjustment for body size. There was also evidence that the gender difference in grip strength diminished with increasing age,whereas the gender difference in walking speed widened (p<0.01 for interactions between age and gender in both cases). This study highlights not only the presence of age and gender differences in objective measures of physical capability but provides a demonstration that harmonisation of data from several large cohort studies is possible. These harmonised data are now being used within HALCyon to understand the lifetime social and biological determinants of physical capability and its changes with age.
Grip strength, walking speed, chair rising and standing balance time are objective measures of physical capability that characterise current health and predict survival in older populations. Socioeconomic position (SEP) in childhood may influence the peak level of physical capability achieved in early adulthood, thereby affecting levels in later adulthood. We have undertaken a systematic review with meta-analyses to test the hypothesis that adverse childhood SEP is associated with lower levels of objectively measured physical capability in adulthood.
Methods and Findings
Relevant studies published by May 2010 were identified through literature searches using EMBASE and MEDLINE. Unpublished results were obtained from study investigators. Results were provided by all study investigators in a standard format and pooled using random-effects meta-analyses. 19 studies were included in the review. Total sample sizes in meta-analyses ranged from N = 17,215 for chair rise time to N = 1,061,855 for grip strength. Although heterogeneity was detected, there was consistent evidence in age adjusted models that lower childhood SEP was associated with modest reductions in physical capability levels in adulthood: comparing the lowest with the highest childhood SEP there was a reduction in grip strength of 0.13 standard deviations (95% CI: 0.06, 0.21), a reduction in mean walking speed of 0.07 m/s (0.05, 0.10), an increase in mean chair rise time of 6% (4%, 8%) and an odds ratio of an inability to balance for 5s of 1.26 (1.02, 1.55). Adjustment for the potential mediating factors, adult SEP and body size attenuated associations greatly. However, despite this attenuation, for walking speed and chair rise time, there was still evidence of moderate associations.
Policies targeting socioeconomic inequalities in childhood may have additional benefits in promoting the maintenance of independence in later life.
To evaluate two psychometric properties of SF-36, namely unidimensionality and reliability.
The data are from three cohorts in the HALCyon collaborative research programme into healthy ageing: Aberdeen Birth Cohort 1936 (n = 428), Hertfordshire Ageing Study (n = 358) and Hertfordshire Cohort Study (n = 3,216). The Mokken scaling model was applied to each sub-scale of SF-36 to evaluate unidimensionality as indicated by scalability. The lower bound for internal consistency reliability was determined by Cronbach’s alpha.
All six sub-scales of SF-36, with the exception of general health (GH) and mental health (MH), demonstrated strong scalability (0.5 ≤ H < 1). The results were consistent across all 3 cohorts. Both GH and MH showed medium scalability (0.4 ≤ H <0.55), although individual items ‘sick easier..’, ‘as healthy as..’ and ‘expect to get worse’ of the GH sub-scale and ‘nervous’, ‘happy’ in the MH sub-scale had low scalability (H < 0.4) in the oldest cohort (aged 73–83). Cronbach’s alphas for all sub-scales were between 0.70 and 0.92.
The unidimensionality and reliability of the sub-scales of SF-36 are sufficient to make this a useful measure of health-related quality of life in older people. Caution is needed when interpreting the results for GH and MH in the oldest cohort due to the poor unidimensionality.
SF-36; Psychometric properties; Unidimensionality; Reliability; Cronbach’s alpha; Mokken scaling