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Seung-uk Ko, Gerald J. Jerome, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Stephanie Studenski and Luigi Ferrucci

Consideration of knee pain can be crucial for identifying fall-related gait patterns. While walking, gait parameters at usual speed were examined in persons with different falls and knee pain status. A total of 439 adults aged 60–92 years participated in this study. Persons with a history of falls had a wider stride width (p = .036) and longer double support time (p = .034) than nonfallers. In the absence of knee pain, fallers had longer double support time than nonfallers (p = .012), but no differences in double support time by history of falls were observed in participants with knee pain. With slower gait speed, fallers with knee pain have narrower stride width and larger hip range of motion (p = .027 and p = .001, respectively). Results suggest the importance of considering knee pain in fall studies for better understanding the fall-related differential gait mechanisms and for designing fall prevention intervention strategies.

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Seung-uk Ko, Gerald J. Jerome, Eleanor M. Simonsick and Luigi Ferrucci

Obstacle crossing, such as stepping over a curb, exerts additional demands on balance control, and therefore the study of usual-pace gait patterns associated with obstacle-crossing performance may provide additional insight into understanding falls and deterioration of gait in older adults. Participants included 432 adults aged 60–96 years (218 women). Participants who failed the obstacle-crossing task (n = 181) walked slower with smaller knee range of motion than participants who successfully completed the obstacle-crossing task (all ps < .001). Participants who failed the obstacle crossing reported a greater likelihood of falling in the previous year, more balance problems, lower walking ability, and needed longer time to complete 5 chair stands than those who passed the task (all ps < .05). Obstacle-crossing task may identify gait patterns in older adults who appear functionally intact, but who are nonetheless at risk of fall and balance problems.

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Roland J. Thorpe Jr., Regina A. Kreisle, Lawrence T. Glickman, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Anne B. Newman and Stephen Kritchevsky

Pet ownership among older adults was investigated to determine whether dog owners were more likely to engage in physical activity than non-dog-pet or non–pet owners. The relationship between pet ownership and physical activity was examined using data from the Health ABC study. After age, race, education level, number of assets, family income, and site were adjusted for dog owners were more likely than non–pet owners to have engaged in non-exercise-related walking in the preceding week but did not differ from non–pet owners in walking for exercise or any physical activity. In contrast, non-dog-pet owners did not differ from non–pet owners in non-exercise-related walking in the preceding week and were less likely than non–pet owners to have engaged in walking for exercise or any physical activity in the preceding week. The activity-related benefits of pet ownership in older adults were limited to dog owners, who engaged in greater overall physical activity—non-exercise-related walking, in particular. Whether pet-related physical activity is sufficient to provide health benefits requires longitudinal investigation.

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Richard J. Havlik, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Kim Sutton-Tyrrell, Anne Newman, Michelle E. Danielson, Dwight B. Brock, Marco Pahor, Edward Lakatta, Harold Spurgeon and Peter Vaitkevicius

Although it is well established that stiff blood vessels contribute to systolic hypertension and increased cardiovascular disease with aging, risk factors for vascular stiffness are still being defined. The Health, Aging, and Body Composition study is a longitudinal investigation of the determinants of physical-functional decline in a well-functioning biracial cohort of 3,075 men and women, age 70–79, in Pittsburgh, PA, and Memphis, TN. Aortic pulse-wave velocity (APWV), an index of vascular stiffness, was measured in 2,488 participants. Self-reported physical activity and exercise habits and fitness/walking endurance were also assessed. Moderate or greater physical activity, exercise, and fitness variables were independently associated with less vascular stiffness, even after inclusion of heart rate, visceral fat, and other correlates of APWV. Physical activity’s association with APWV was particularly strong when levels of physical activity were quite low, suggesting that a minimal amount of physical activity might be sufficient to reduce arterial stiffness in older adults.

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Marquis Hawkins, Anne B. Newman, Magdalena Madero, Kushang V. Patel, Michael G. Shlipak, Jennifer Cooper, Kirsten L. Johansen, Sankar D. Navaneethan, Ronald I. Shorr, Eleanor M. Simonsick and Linda F Fried

Background:

Physical activity (PA) may play a role in preserving kidney health. The purpose of this study was to determine if PA and sedentary behavior are associated with incident chronic kidney disease (CKD) and change in kidney function in older adults.

Methods:

The Health, Aging, and Body Composition study is a prospective cohort of 3075 well-functioning older adults. PA and television watching was measured by self-report, and serum cystatin C was used to estimate glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). CKD was defined as an eGFR <60 ml/min/1.73m2. Rapid kidney function decline was defined as an annual loss in eGFR of >3ml/min/1.73m2. Discrete survival analysis was used to determine if baseline PA and television watching were related to 10-year cumulative incidence of CKD and rapid decline in kidney function.

Results:

Individuals who reported watching television >3 hours/day had a higher risk of incident CKD (HR 1.34; 95% CI, 1.09-1.65) and experiencing a rapid decline in kidney function (HR 1.26; 95% CI, 1.05-1.52) compared with individuals who watched television <2 hours/day. PA was not related to either outcome.

Conclusions:

High levels of television watching are associated with declining kidney function; the mechanisms that underlie this association need further study.