Greater Periaortic Fat Volume at Midlife Is Associated with Slower Gait Speed Later in Life in Women: The SWAN Cardiovascular Fat Ancillary Study

Samar R. El Khoudary, Xirun Chen , Alexis Nasr, Kelly Shields, Emma Barinas-Mitchel, Imke Janssen, Susan Everson-Rose, Lynda H. Powell, Karen A. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Higher perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT) contributes to adverse physiologic alterations in the vascular wall, and thus could potentially limit normal physical function later in life. We hypothesize that higher PVAT volume at midlife is prospectively associated with slower gait speed later in life, independent of overall adiposity and other risk factors. METHODS: Participants from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) cardiovascular fat ancillary study were included. PVAT volume around the descending aorta was quantified using existing computed tomography scans at midlife, while gait speed was measured after an average of 10.4 ± 0.7 years. RESULTS: Two hundred and seventy-six women (aged 51.3 ± 2.8 years at PVAT assessment) were included. Mean gait speed was 0.96 ± 0.21 m/s. Adjusting for study site, race, education level, menopausal status, and length of descending aorta at PVAT assessment, and age, body mass index, difficulty paying for basics, overall health and smoking status at gait speed assessment, a higher midlife PVAT volume was associated with a slower gait speed later in life (p = .03). With further adjustment for presence of any comorbid conditions by the time of gait speed assessment, the association persisted; every 1SD increase in log-PVAT was associated with 3.3% slower gait speed (95% confidence interval: 0.3-6.3%; p = .03). CONCLUSION: Greater PVAT in midlife women may contribute to poorer physical function in older age supporting a potential role of midlife PVAT in multiple domains of healthy aging. Additional research is needed to fully elucidate the physiologic changes associated with PVAT that may underlie the observed associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1959-1964
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number12
Early online dateApr 12 2019
StatePublished - Nov 13 2019



  • Midlife
  • Perivascular adipose tissue
  • Physical functioning
  • Walking speed

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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