Multisystem physiologic impairments and changes in gait speed of older adults

Andrea L. Rosso, Jason L. Sanders, Alice M. Arnold, Robert M. Boudreau, Calvin H Hirsch, Michelle C. Carlson, Caterina Rosano, Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Anne B. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background: Slowed gait is an important health indicator in older adults but a single identifiable cause is often lacking. We assessed whether a summary index measuring impairments across multiple physiologic systems was associated with slowed gait in older individuals. Methods: Data from the Cardiovascular Health Study (n = 3,010) were used to assess associations between baseline physiologic index (measuring vasculature, brain, kidneys, lungs, and glucose metabolism; range 0-10 with 0-2 points/system and lower score indicating higher function) and annual gait speed (m/s) over 6 years. Participants with complete data on the physiologic index and at least two gait speed measures were included. Mean gait speed and 95% confidence intervals (CI) by category of index were calculated using mixed effects models. Results: Those with scores of three or higher on the index had significantly slower gait speed at baseline compared to those with scores of 0-2 (7-10: mean speed = 0.83 m/s, 95% CI: 0.80, 0.84; 0-2: mean speed = 1.01 m/s, 95% CI: 0.99, 1.03). Those with higher indices also had faster decline in gait speed compared to those with lower scores after adjustment for demographic and health characteristics (7-10: change in speed = -0.020 m/s/year, 95% CI: -0.024, -0.016; 0-2: change in speed= -0.010 m/s/year, 95% CI: -0.014, -0.006). Conclusions: Greater impairment across five organ systems was associated with slower gait speed and greater declines in gait speed over 6 years. Impairments accumulated over multiple physiologic systems may make older adults more vulnerable to slow gait speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015


  • Epidemiology
  • Gait
  • Physical function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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