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Developmental factors associated with decline in grip strength from midlife to old age: a British birth cohort study

Kuh, Diana and Hardy, Rebecca and Blodgett, Joanna M and Cooper, Rachel (2019) Developmental factors associated with decline in grip strength from midlife to old age: a British birth cohort study. BMJ Open, 9 (5). e025755-e025755.

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Abstract

Objectives To test whether developmental factors are associated with grip strength trajectories between 53 and 69 years, and operate independently or on the same pathway/s as adult factors. Design British birth cohort study. Setting England, Scotland and Wales. Participants 3058 men and women. Main outcome measures Grip strength (kg) at ages 53, 60–64 and 69 were analysed using multilevel models to estimate associations with developmental factors (birth weight, growth parameters, motor and cognitive development) and father’s social class, and investigate adult factors that could explain observed associations, testing for age and sex interactions. Results In men, heavier birth weight, beginning to walk ‘on time’, later puberty and greater weight 0–26 years and in women, heavier birth weight and earlier age at first standing were independently associated with stronger grip but not with its decline. The slower decline in grip strength (by 0.07 kg/year, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.11 per 1 SD, p=0.003) in men of higher cognitive ability was attenuated by adjusting for adult verbal memory. Conclusions Patterns of growth and motor development have persisting associations with grip strength between midlife and old age. The strengthening associations with cognition suggest that, at older ages, grip strength increasingly reflects neural ageing processes. Interventions across life that promote muscle development or maintain muscle strength should increase the chance of an independent old age..

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