Although age-related variations in areal bone mineral density (aBMD) and the prevalence of osteoporosis have been well characterized, there is a paucity of data on femoral strength in the population. Addressing this issue, we used finite-element analysis of quantitative computed tomographic scans to assess femoral strength in an age-stratified cohort of 362 women and 317 men, aged 21 to 89 years, randomly sampled from the population of Rochester, MN, and compared femoral strength with femoral neck aBMD. Percent reductions over adulthood were much greater for femoral strength (55% in women, 39% in men) than for femoral neck aBMD (26% in women, 21% in men), an effect that was accentuated in women. Notable declines in strength started in the mid-40s for women and one decade later for men. At advanced age, most of the strength deficit for women compared with men was a result of this decade-earlier onset of strength loss for women, this factor being more important than sex-related differences in peak bone strength and annual rates of bone loss. For both sexes, the prevalence of “low femoral strength” (<3000 N) was much higher than the prevalence of osteoporosis (femoral neck aBMD T-score of −2.5 or less). We conclude that age-related declines in femoral strength are much greater than suggested by age-related declines in femoral neck aBMD. Further, far more of the elderly may be at high risk of hip fracture because of low femoral strength than previously assumed based on the traditional classification of osteoporosis.
bone strength; osteoporosis; aging; finite‐element analysis; biomechanics