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The anthropometric status of elderly women in rural Ghana and factors associated with low body mass index

Blankson, B., Hall, A.
The journal of nutrition, health & aging 2012 v.16 no.10 pp. 881-886
alcoholic beverages, arm circumference, body mass index, children, correlation, cross-sectional studies, eating habits, elderly, food security, income, malnutrition, nutrition risk assessment, nutritional status, overweight, physical fitness, questionnaires, rural women, smokeless tobacco, socioeconomic status, teeth, tooth diseases, underweight, villages, vision, walking, Ghana
OBJECTIVES: To describe the anthropometric and physical status of a sample of elderly women in rural Ghana and examine factors associated with a low body mass index (BMI). DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey. SETTING: Two rural villages in Ashanti Region, Ghana. PARTICIPANTS: Fifty-nine elderly women aged 60 to 92 years. MEASUREMENTS: The weight, height, half armspan and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of each woman was measured; body mass index (BMI) and body mass for armspan (BMA) were calculated. The state of each woman’s teeth and visual acuity was assessed. Data on food security, eating habits and socio-economic status were collected by questionnaire. RESULTS: 41% (95%CI 27.8, 53.6) of women were underweight and 16.9% (95%CI 7.18, 26.8) were overweight or obese. Factors associated with a low BMI (<18.5 kg/m²) were: age (P=0.001), chewing tobacco (P=0.002), drinking alcohol (P=0.012), a visual acuity score of <30% (P=0.038), using a walking aid (P=0.016) and the number of children who gave the women cash (P=0.005). BMI was strongly positively correlated with BMA (r=0.999, P<0.001) and with MUAC (r=0.91, P<0.001), and a BMI of 18.5 was equivalent to a MUAC of about 23cm. CONCLUSION: Elderly women in Ghana with poor teeth and eyesight are at risk of undernutrition. Measurements of MUAC, which is simple, or BMA, which is based on weight and half armspan and is more easily measured and calculated than height and BMI, could be used to identify undernourished elderly women in rural Africa.