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Obesity, Knee Osteoarthritis Hurt Seniors’ Life Expectancy

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Updated: 8/29 10:05 pm

Feb. 14, 2011 -- Obesity and osteoarthritis of the knee substantially affect the quality of life and life expectancy for millions of older Americans, according to a new study.

Researchers say obesity and osteoarthritis often overlap in older adults, with increasing body weight putting stress on aging joints.

With obesity rates on the rise, a new analysis of U.S. Census and other data on obesity and knee osteoarthritis suggests the two conditions can significantly affect a person’s quality of life and life expectancy.

The results show that of the 86 million people aged 50 to 84 in the U.S., about 40% have osteoarthritis of the knee, are obese, or are obese and have knee osteoarthritis.

“These conditions result in 86 million quality-adjusted life-years lost among U.S. adults aged 50 to 84 years,” researcher Elena Losina, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues write in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers say obesity reduces life expectancy and quality of life by 12%, and osteoarthritis of the knee reduces both by an additional 12%.

Obesity and OA Linked

In their study, researchers used a computer model to estimate the impact of obesity and osteoarthritis of the knee on the quality of life and life expectancy of older adults in the U.S.

They found that Hispanic and African-American women suffer disproportionately from these two chronic conditions.

“The effect of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis on quality of life is similar to that of breast cancer and other disabling conditions,” write researchers.

In addition, the results show that reducing obesity rates to levels seen 10 years ago would prevent 111,206 knee replacements, 178,071 cases of coronary heart disease, and 889,872 cases of diabetes.

“With 86 million quality-adjusted life-years at stake and the incidence of knee osteoarthritis and obesity increasing, the potential public health effect of successful interventions to prevent these conditions is very substantial and worthy of intensive investigation,” the researchers write.

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