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Obesity, Bum Knees Robbing Seniors of Good Years: Study
Date:2/14/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity and osteoarthritis of the knee are robbing millions of older Americans of an average of 3.5 years of life in which they might otherwise be feeling healthy and free of chronic pain, new research finds.

Some 40 percent of older Americans are either obese and/or have osteoarthritis of the knee, an often painful and potentially disabling condition that can be exacerbated by carrying around extra weight.

To determine the toll of both conditions on those aged 50 to 84, researchers created a mathematical model to calculate "quality-adjusted life-year losses," or years of good health lost. This is different from mortality -- researchers did not focus on overall lifespan, but instead on quality of life.

"You take two people, one who doesn't have knee osteoarthritis and the other who does," said study author Elena Losina, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. "It makes him unable to walk more than one block. He has a hard time getting up in the morning and going to the bathroom. It really, really puts limitations on what he can do."

About 3.3 percent, or some 2.9 million Americans, are both obese and have knee osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage between the joints deteriorates. As a result, they are projected to enjoy 3.5 years less of pain-free good health than those who are neither obese nor have osteoarthritis.

About 33.4 percent, or nearly 29 million older Americans, are obese and do not have osteoarthritis. They're projected to lose, on average, about 2.5 healthy, pain-free life-years, according to the study.

About 3.3 percent are not obese but have knee osteoarthritis anyway. They're projected to lose nearly 1.9 years of good health.

The study is published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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