Relationship of Incident Falls with Balance Deficits and Body Composition in Male and Female Community-Dwelling Elders

Debra L. Waters, C. R. Qualls, M. Cesari, Y. Rolland, L. Vlietstra, B. Vellas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Sarcopenia and obesity are reported risk factors for falls, although the data are not consistent and most studies do not make sex comparisons. We investigated whether falls were associated with balance, gait, and body composition, and whether these relationships are sex-specific. Design: Secondary analysis of 4-year follow-up data from of the New Mexico Aging Process Study. Setting: Albuquerque, New Mexico. Participants: 307 participants (M, n=122, 75.8 yr. SD5.5; F, n=183, 74.6yr SD6.1). Measurements: Gait and balance were assessed annually using the Tinetti test. Lean body mass (LBM), appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASM), fat free mass (FFM), total fat mass (FM) were assessed annually by DXA. Falls were assessed using bimonthly falls calendars. Hazard ratios (HR) for 2-point worsening in gait and balance score and falls were calculated by Cox proportional hazard for men and women. Results: Baseline balance deficits, and not body composition, represented the strongest predictor of falls. For the total balance score, the variables with significant sex interactions were ASM (Male-HR 1.02 95%CI 0.60-1.73; Female-HR 1.92 95%CI 1.05-3.52, p=0.03) and FFM (Male-HR 1.04 95%CI 0.64-1.70; Female-HR 1.91 95%CI 1.12-3.24, p=0.04), after adjustment for age, sarcopenia and physical activity. The body composition relationship with balance deficits was U-shaped with the strongest predictors being low LBM in males and high FM in females. Conclusions: Specific body composition components and balance deficits are risk factors for falls following sex-specific patterns. Sex differences need to be explored and considered in interventions for worsening balance and falls prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-13
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • balance
  • Body composition
  • falls
  • older adults
  • sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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