Turkish Journal of Geriatrics 2003 , Vol 6, Issue 4
Hacettepe Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi Halk Sağlığı Anabilim Dalı, Ankara The term "elderly" is applied to those aged 60 years and over, who represent the fastest-growing segment of populations throughout the world. The demographic characteristics of the elderly themselves are also likely to be different in the future from what they are at present. The changes that take place will have an enormous impact on health services demanded and provided in all countries, but especially in developing counries. Anthropometric characteristics of individuals and populations are simple and strong predictors of future ill health, functional impairment and mortality; in turn, they may be modified by disease. For these reasons, anthropometric data are used in many contexts to screen for or monitor disease. In the elderly, however, anthropometry is a relatively new tool and thus difficult to evaluate. The predictive power of anthropometric indicators relative to a specific outcome is likely to vary with a number of factors such as age-related biological changes, illness, secular changes, childhood diseases, lifelong practices (smoking, diet, exercise) and socioeconomic factors. Among middle-aged adults overweight is an important publich health problem in many countries and some the combined prevalence of grade 2 and 3 overweight (BMI >30) is as high as 40%. For individuals over 65 years of age the health risk of overweight is unclear; in fact, population data indicate that moderate overweight at older ages is associated with lower mortality. Among those older than 80 years, thinness ans loss of lean body mass may be a more significant problem than overweight. Whether a high abdomen hip ratio is a risk factor among the elderly is unclear. Evidence from both acute and chronic illness, as well as from starvation studies, indicates that both lean and fat body mass play a role in determining health status and outcome. Lean body mass is the single most important predictor of survival in critical illness, and is a significant predictor of outcome in malignancy, AIDS and some acute illnesses. Data collected by physicians in the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War have shown that, in starvation, loss of more than 40% of baseline lean body mass is fatal. This same critical figure seems to apply also to AIDS and normal aging. Keywords : Elderly, Anthropometry, Nutritional status, Anthropometry and aging