Background: Low body mass index (BMI) and low cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) are independently associated with increased mortality in the elderly. However, interactions among BMI, CRF, and mortality in older persons have not been adequately explored.
Methods: Hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated for predetermined strata of BMI and CRF. Independent and joint associations of CRF, BMI, and all-cause mortality were assessed by Cox proportional hazards analyses in a prospective cohort of 981 healthy men aged at least 65 years (mean age [+/-SD], 71 [+/-5] years; range, 65-88 years) referred for exercise testing during 1987-2003.
Results: During a mean follow-up of 6.9 +/- 4.4 years, a total of 208 patients died. Multivariate relative risks (95% confidence interval [CI]) of mortality across BMI groups of <20.0, 20.0-25.0, 25.0-29.9, 30.0-34.9, and > or =35.0 were 2.51 (1.26-4.98), 1.0 (reference), 0.66 (0.48-0.90), 0.50 (0.31-0.78), and 0.44 (0.20-0.97), respectively, and across CRF groups of <5.0, 5.0-8.0, and >8.0 metabolic equivalents were 1.0 (reference), 0.56 (0.40-0.78), and 0.39 (0.26-0.58), respectively. In a separate analysis of within-strata CRF according to BMI grouping, the lowest mortality risk was observed in obese men with high fitness (HR [95% CI] 0.26 [0.10-0.69]; p = .007).
Conclusions: In this cohort of elderly male veterans, we observed independent and joint inverse relations of BMI and CRF to mortality. This warrants further investigation of fitness, fatness, and mortality interactions in older persons.