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Keywords:

  • Aging;
  • Bone;
  • Geometric remodeling;
  • Activity level;
  • Femur;
  • Tibia

Abstract

Changes with age in cross-sectional geometry of the lower limb bones were investigated in a large sample of cadaveric skeletal material from U.S. white adults. Section properties (areas and second moments of area) were determined at 11 locations by sectioning and direct measurement of 103 femora and 99 tibiae. All properties were standardized for body size differences by dividing by powers of bone length, and age trends were determined through linear regression analysis. Results indicate that while both men and women undergo endosteal resorption of bone and medullary expansion with aging, only men exhibit concurrent subperiosteal bone apposition and expansion. As a consequence, men show little change in cortical area and some increase in second moments of area with age, while women show decreases in both cortical area and second moments of area. Thus, only men appear to remodel bone in a way that would tend to compensate for loss of bone material strength with aging. In a previous study of a preindustrial sample with high activity levels, both men and women exhibited bone subperiosteal expansion and increase in second moments of area with aging. Together with observed differences in fracture incidence among living populations, these findings suggest that relatively low activity levels may not stimulate optimal bone remodeling throughout life and thus may contribute to higher risk of fracture in old age.