Age-related frailty may be a treatable and preventable health problem, just like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, according to a recent study. “Societies are not aware of frailty as an avoidable health problem and most people usually resign themselves to this condition,” said Jerzy Sacha from the University Hospital in Opole, Poland. “Fortunately, by opting for a proper lifestyle and adequate physical, mental, and social activities, one may prevent or delay the frailty state.”
The research team reviewed over one hundred publications on recognising, treating, and preventing frailty, with the aim of raising awareness of this growing health problem. Frailty encompasses a range of symptoms that many people assume are just an inescapable part of aging. These include fatigue, muscle weakness, slower movements, and unintentional weight loss. Frailty also manifests as psychological and cognitive symptoms such as isolation, depression, and trouble thinking as quickly and clearly as patients could in their younger years.
These symptoms decrease patients’ self-sufficiency and frail patients are more likely to suffer falls, disability, infections, and hospitalisation, all of which can contribute to an earlier death. But, as Sacha’s review highlights, early detection and treatment of frailty, and pre-frailty, may help many of the elderly live healthier lives.
Sacha’s review showed ample evidence that the prevalence and impact of frailty can be reduced, at least in part, with a few straightforward measures. Unsurprisingly, age-appropriate exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective interventions for helping the elderly stay fit. Careful monitoring of body weight and diet are also key to ensuring that older patients are not suffering from malnutrition, which often contributes to frailty.
Socialisation is another critical aspect of avoiding the cognitive and psychological symptoms of frailty. Loneliness and loss of purpose can leave the elderly unmotivated and disengaged and current social programs could improve by more thoroughly addressing intellectual and social needs, as well as physical. “Social campaigns should inform societies about age related frailty and suggest proper lifestyles to avoid or delay these conditions,” noted Sacha.
“People should realise that they may change their unfavourable trajectories to senility and this change in mentality is critical to preparing communities for greater longevity.” The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.