Background: Several studies have documented the substantial health and economic burdens associated with sarcopenia among the elderly, but there has been no systematic study among Asians. A cross-sectional survey of elderly community-dwelling Chinese volunteers (262 men and 265 women), aged 70 years and older, was undertaken in Hong Kong. The purposes of this study were to evaluate the prevalence of and risk factors for sarcopenia in elderly Chinese, and to compare these observations with those in white persons.
Methods: Muscle mass was estimated by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. In this study, sarcopenia was defined as a total adjusted skeletal muscle mass two standard deviations or more below the normal mean for young Asian men and women in this study. The relationship between risk factors (alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, regular exercise, body mass index, medical conditions) and sarcopenia was studied by multiple logistic regression.
Results: The prevalence of sarcopenia was 12.3% in Chinese men and 7.6% in Chinese women aged 70 years and older, which was slightly lower than figures observed in white persons. Being underweight was a significant risk factor in both men (odds ratio, 39.1; 95% confidence interval, 11.3 to 134.6) and women (odds ratio, 9.7; 95% confidence interval, 2.8 to 33.8). No other risk factors were found in Chinese men or women.
Conclusions: Sarcopenia exists among elderly Chinese men and women, albeit at a lower rate than in white persons. This may be due to the lower muscle mass among young men and women or to an attenuated rate of loss in muscle mass with aging in the Chinese elderly. Being underweight is a major risk factor for sarcopenia in both sexes.