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


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 - Mar 2015


  • Epidemiology
  • Gait
  • Physical function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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