Public Release: 

Severity of kyphosis and decline in lung function: The Framingham study

Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research

BOSTON--July 28, 2016-- Researchers from the Harvard affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research (IFAR), have published a recent article in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, suggesting that preventing or slowing progression of hyperkyphosis may reduce pulmonary decline in older adults. Hyperkyphosis is a poorly understood condition that causes an extreme forward curvature of the spine and affects as many as 20 to 40 percent of older individuals. "Clinically, we know hyperkyphosis restricts expansion of the lungs and causes difficulty in breathing, as well as other serious health problems," said Amanda Lorbergs, a post-doctoral scientist at IFAR and lead author of the study. Lisa Samelson, senior investigator for the study and associate scientist at IFAR and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, added, "Our findings are highly important, because they are based on pulmonary function data collected in a prospective cohort followed over a long period, allowing us, for the first time, to quantify the impact of hyperkyphosis on declines in lung function."

Samelson's team used data from the Framingham Heart Study that has collected information from generations of Framingham residents and their offspring since the 1940s. These data include measurements of kyphosis from spine radiographs taken at the beginning of the study and pulmonary function (spirometry) tests performed on four occasions over the next 16 years. The researchers found that women who had the most severe kyphosis had the greatest declines in lung function. Moreover, this loss of lung function that may be due to hyperkyphosis is comparable with the amount associated with smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. Pulmonary impairment is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in older adults. By quantifying the impact hyperkyphosis can have on pulmonary impairment, this study highlights the importance of developing approaches to prevent or reduce hyperkyphosis.

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This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging grant numbers R01 AG041658 and R01 AR041398. A.L. Lorbergs is supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging training grant T32-AG023480 Framingham contract number HHSN268201500001I.

About Institute for Aging Research

Scientists at the Institute for Aging Research seek to transform the human experience of aging by conducting research that will ensure a life of health, dignity and productivity into advanced age. The Institute carries out rigorous studies that discover the mechanisms of age-related disease and disability; lead to the prevention, treatment and cure of disease; advance the standard of care for older people; and inform public decision-making. The Musculoskeletal Center within IFAR studies conditions affecting bone, muscle, and joint health with aging.

About Hebrew SeniorLife

Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching and redefining the possibilities of aging. Based in Boston, the non-profit, non-sectarian organization has provided communities and health care for seniors, research into aging, and education for geriatric care providers since 1903. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit http://www.hebrewseniorlife.org, follow us on Twitter @H_SeniorLife, like us on Facebook or read our blog.

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