Knee Height and Arm Span: A Reflection of Early Life Environment and Risk of Dementia

Neurology. 2008 May 6;70(19 Pt 2):1818-26. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000311444.20490.98.


Objectives: To determine if anthropometric measures, as markers of early life environment, are associated with risk of dementia, Alzheimer disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD).

Methods: A total of 2,798 subjects were followed as part of the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study for an average of 5.4 years; 480 developed dementia. Knee height was measured 3 years prior to and arm span 4 years after the study's baseline. Cox proportional hazard models were used to examine their association with subsequent risk of dementia, AD, and VaD.

Results: Among women, greater knee height and arm span were associated with lower risks of dementia (knee height: HR per 1-inch increase 0.84; 95% CI 0.74-0.96; arm span: HR per 1-inch increase 0.93; 95% CI 0.88-0.98) and AD (knee height: HR per 1-inch increase 0.78; 95% CI 0.65-0.93; arm span: HR per 1-inch increase 0.90; 95% CI 0.85-0.96). Women in the lowest quartile of arm span had approximately 1.5 times greater risk of dementia (HR 1.45; 95% CI 1.03-2.05) and AD (HR 1.70; 95% CI 1.10-2.62) than other women. Among men, only arm span was associated with lower risks of dementia (HR per 1-inch increase 0.94; 95% CI 0.89-1.00) and AD (HR per 1-inch increase 0.92; 95% CI 0.84-1.00). For each gender, knee height was not associated with VaD, while arm span was associated with a nonsignificant lower risk of VaD.

Conclusions: Our findings with knee height and arm span are consistent with previous reports and suggest early life environment may play an important role in the determination of future dementia risk.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Arm / anatomy & histology
  • Arm / physiology
  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Knee / anatomy & histology
  • Knee / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Skeleton