Ageing, physical function, and the diurnal rhythms of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone

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The present study examined the relationship between ageing, physical function and the diurnal rhythms of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Participants were 36 community dwelling older adults aged between 65 and 86 years old. Salivary cortisol and DHEA were measured over the course of one day: immediately upon awakening, 30min later, and then 3h, 6h, 9h and 12h post-awakening. Participants completed the Nottingham extended activities of daily living index, the Berg Balance Scale and their handgrip strength was assessed. Older participants had a significantly higher cortisol area under the curve (AUC), lower overall DHEA levels, lower DHEA AUC, a decreased diurnal slope of decline and increased cortisol:DHEA ratio. Lower diurnal cortisol levels were associated with poorer performance on the Berg Balance Scale and lower handgrip strength, and those with a flattened DHEA diurnal profile reported less independence in carrying out daily tasks. These associations withstood adjustment for age. In conclusion, this study suggests an association between cortisol, DHEA, ageing and physical function.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012