Sex differences in the contribution of different physiological systems to physical function in older adults
Jones, S and Schultz, MG and Tillin, T and Park, C and Williams, S and Chaturvedi, N and Hughes, AD, Sex differences in the contribution of different physiological systems to physical function in older adults, GeroScience, 43, (1) pp. 443-455. ISSN 2509-2715 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Having the physical function to undertake activities of daily living (ADLs) is essential in order to maintain independence. The aim of this study is to investigate factors associated with physical function in older adults and determine if these associations differ in men versus women. In total, 726 participants (57% men; 73±7 years old) from a population-based cohort, the Southall and Brent Revisited (SABRE) study, completed questionnaires permitting a physical function score (PFS) to be calculated. Detailed phenotyping was performed including cardiovascular (echocardiography and macrovascular and microvascular functions), skeletal muscle (grip strength and oxidative capacity) and lung (pulmonary) function measurements. In a sub-group, maximal aerobic capacity was estimated from a sub-maximal exercise test. In women versus men, the association between grip strength and PFS was nearly 3 times stronger, and the association between microvascular dysfunction and PFS was over 5 times stronger (standardized β-coefficient (95% CI) 0.34 (0.22, 0.45) versus 0.11 (0.01,0.22) and -0.27 (-0.37, -0.17) versus -0.05 (-0.14, 0.04), respectively). In men, the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and PFS was 3 times greater than that in women (standardized β-coefficient (95% CI) 0.33 (0.22, 0.45) versus 0.10 (-0.04, 0.25). Cardiovascular, skeletal muscle and pulmonary factors all contribute to self-reported physical function, but the relative pattern of contribution differs by sex. Grip strength and microvascular function are most strongly associated with physical function in women while cardiorespiratory fitness is most strongly associated with physical function in men. This is relevant to the design of effective interventions that target maintenance of physical function in old age.