Department of Sports Medicine, Deaconess Institute of Oulu, Oulu, Finland; Department of Neurology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland; Department of Public Health and General Practice, University of Oulu and University Hospital, Oulu, Finland.
Low body weight is associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis and fractures, but the contribution of other lifestyle related factors have not been previously studied within lean elderly women. The present study evaluated the association between lifelong lifestyle factors and bone density, falls and postmenopausal fractures in elderly women with low body mass index (BMI). A population-based sample of 1222 women aged 70 to 73 years was stratified by BMI tertiles, and all 407 women in the lowest tertile participated. Data on falls and postmenopausal fractures, physical activity, functional capacity, calcium intake, smoking, alcohol intake and medical factors at different ages were obtained by a questionnaire. Calcaneum bone mass as broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA) was assessed with a quantitative ultrasound (QUS) device, and bone mineral density (BMD) at the distal radius was measured with a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Low current physical activity was associated with lower calcaneum BUA and factors associated with higher BUA were body weight, low lifetime occupational physical activity, hormone replacement and type 2 diabetes. Weight, type 2 diabetes and thiatzide use were associated with higher radius BMD. The final multivariate model consisted of four independent factors associated with fractures: low lifetime habitual physical activity (OR 3.7, 95% CI 1.9-7.1), diabetes (OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1-1.0), living alone (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.0-3.0) and calcaneum BUA (1.8, 95% CI 1.3-2.4). Poor functional ability and symptoms of depression were associated with recent falling. In elderly women with low BMI, lifelong physical activity may protect from fractures, while low calcaneum bone mass and living unpartnered appear to be associated with an increased risk for fractures. Poor functional ability and presence of depression may be associated with risk of falling. Type 2 diabetes may modify the risk of low bone mass and low-trauma postmenopausal fractures. Albeit that the results of this study need to be confirmed in prospective follow-up studies, multifactorial program with the emphasis on physical and social activation in the primary care setting for preventing falls and fractures in lean elderly women is recommended.