Mid-calf skeletal muscle density and its associations with physical activity, bone health and incident 12-month falls in older adults: The Healthy Ageing Initiative

David Scott, Jonas Johansson, Lachlan B. McMillan, Peter R. Ebeling, Anna Nordstrom, Peter Nordstrom

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Background: Lower skeletal muscle density, indicating greater infiltration of adipose tissue into muscles, is associated with higher fracture risk in older adults. We aimed to determine whether mid-calf muscle density is associated with falls risk and bone health in community-dwelling older adults. Methods: 2214 community-dwelling men and women who participated in the Healthy Ageing Initiative (Sweden) study at age 70 were included in this analysis. Mid-calf muscle density (mg/cm3) at the proximal tibia, and volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) and architecture at the distal and proximal tibia and radius, were assessed by peripheral quantitative computed tomography. Whole-body lean and fat mass, lumbar spine and total hip areal bone mineral density (aBMD) were assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Participants completed seven-day accelerometer measurements of physical activity intensity, and self-reported falls data were collected 6 and 12 months later. Results: 302 (13.5%) participants reported a fall at the 6- or 12-month interview, and 29 (1.3%) reported a fall at both interviews. After adjustment for confounders, each standard deviation decrease in mid-calf muscle density was associated with a trend towards greater likelihood of experiencing a fall (OR 1.13; 95% CI 1.00, 1.29 per SD lower) and significantly greater likelihood of multiple falls (1.61; 1.16, 2.23). Higher muscle density was not associated with total hip aBMD, and was associated with lower lumbar spine aBMD (B = -0.003; 95% CI -0.005, -0.001 per mg/cm3) and higher proximal cortical vBMD (0.74; 0.20, 1.28) at the radius. At the tibia, muscle density was positively associated with distal total and trabecular vBMD, and proximal total and cortical vBMD, cortical thickness, cortical area and stress-strain index (all P < 0.05). Only moderate/vigorous (%) intensity physical activity, not sedentary time or light activity, was associated with higher mid-calf muscle density (0.086; 0.034, 0.138). Conclusions: Lower mid-calf muscle density is independently associated with higher likelihood for multiple incident falls and appears to have localised negative effects on bone structure in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-451
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Bone density
  • Falls
  • Muscle density
  • Osteoporosis
  • Physical activity
  • Sarcopenia

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