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Open Access Research article

Combinations of motor measures more strongly predict adverse health outcomes in old age: the rush memory and aging project, a community-based cohort study

Aron S Buchman1*, Sue E Leurgans,1, Patricia A Boyle,2, Julie A Schneider,3, Steven E Arnold4 and David A Bennett1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, 600 S. Paulina, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA

2 Department of Behavioral Science, Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, 600 S. Paulina Street, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA

3 Department of Pathology, Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, 600 S. Paulina Street, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA

4 Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Pennsylvania, 125 South 31st Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Medicine 2011, 9:42  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-42

Published: 20 April 2011

Abstract

Objective

Motor impairment in old age is a growing public-health concern, and several different constructs have been used to identify motor impairments in older people. We tested the hypothesis that combinations of motor constructs more strongly predict adverse health outcomes in older people.

Methods

In total, 949 people without dementia, history of stroke or Parkinson's disease, who were participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project (a longitudinal community-based cohort study), underwent assessment at study entry. From this, three constructs were derived: 1) physical frailty based on grip strength, timed walk, body mass index and fatigue; 2) Parkinsonian Signs Score based on the modified motor section of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale; and 3) a motor construct, based on nine strength measures and nine motor performances. Disability and cognitive status were assessed annually. A series of Cox proportional-hazards models, controlling for age, sex and education, were used to examine the association of each of these three constructs alone and in various combinations with death, disability and Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Results

All three constructs were related (mean r = 0.50, all P < 0.001), and when considered individually in separate proportional-hazards models, were associated with risk of death, incident disability and AD. However, when considered together, combinations of these constructs more strongly predicted adverse health outcomes.

Conclusions

Physical frailty, parkinsonian signs score and global motor score are related constructs that capture different aspects of motor function. Assessments using several motor constructs may more accurately identify people at the highest risk of adverse health consequences in old age.