Preventing Frailty and Living Longer


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Frailty is a term that many people hear, but very few understand. It’s the slow loss of the body’s strength and energy over time leading to weakness, tiredness and loss of balance. It can also have a huge impact on your survival outcomes after an injury. Learn steps you can take now to limit your chances of becoming frail later.

Seventy-four-year-old Vince Cusomato loves spending time in his garden. But as he gets older, he fears not being able to enjoy the great outdoors.

“I don’t want to spend time in a bed. Reaching a point where I couldn’t do all the things that I wanted to do,” shared Cusomato.

Cathy Maxwell, PhD, RN, FAAN, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, is an expert in geriatric trauma and believes that being frail has many poor outcomes.

“Mortality, functional decline, readmissions to the hospital,” stated Maxwell.

Maxwell followed 200 adults over the age of 65 with a recent injury. She found after one year about six out of ten non-frail adults returned to their pre-injury status and three out of ten developed problems like the inability to walk upstairs or kneel. But in frail patients …

“At the end of one year, four out of ten die within one year, another four out of ten decline,” said Maxwell.

And only two made it back to pre-injury status. But what can you do now to prevent or delay becoming frail?

“The biggest, of course, is physical activity,” Maxwell shared.

Safety is also very important.

Maxwell continued, “Awareness of things that can lead to injuries. Maybe not climbing up on ladders anymore.”

Also eating healthy. Experts found those who eat a Mediterranean diet were 74 percent less likely to become frail. And staying socially connected can help as well. People with low levels of social connections are three to five times more likely to die early. So, make sure your body is not running on empty!

Risk of frailty increases with age. One in 25 people between the ages of 65 and 74 are considered frail. That number jumps to one in four after the age of 84.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.


REPORT #2759

BACKGROUND: Frailty is defined as age-related deficits in normal function which can include loss of muscle, stamina, endurance, sometimes weight, and general fitness. It often involves the presence of two or more chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, or heart disease. Criteria for diagnosis are weakness, slowness, low level of physical activity, easy exhaustion, poor endurance, and loss of weight. Older people contribute in many ways to their families and communities, however, it depends hugely on their health. If people can experience these extra years of life in good health and live in a supportive environment, they will be able to do the things they value well into old age.

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IDENTIFYING FRAILTY: Research at Johns Hopkins is helping doctors and patients spot frailty sooner. “If we understand the underlying biomedical processes that create frailty, we can develop better interventions – from medications to lifestyle changes,” says Samuel Durso, MD, director of geriatric medicine and gerontology at Johns Hopkins. Some concerns to watch out for are if you have unintentionally lost ten or more pounds in the past year; you have trouble standing without assistance or have reduced grip strength; everything you do takes a big effort, or you just can’t get going three or more days most weeks; your energy or activity level is low; your pace is slower, such as, it takes you more than six or seven seconds to walk 15 feet. “One cause of frailty is the age-related loss of muscle mass,” Durso explains. Research suggests activities like walking and easy strength-training improves strength and reduces weakness.


CHALLENGES OF TREATING FRAILTY AND WAYS TO PREVENT IT: Currently, our healthcare system is not well-designed to handle frailty. And, as a result, frail patients often fall through the cracks. A big challenge is the shortage of physicians who specialize in the care of elderly. The American Geriatrics Society reports that the U.S. has less than half of the 17,000 geriatricians it needs. By 2030, the number needed will increase to 30,000. Frailty is not necessarily a given with old age. It may be possible to reduce the severity of it, or even prevent it entirely, by promoting overall health. Good nutrition plays an important role which means eating a well-balanced, varied diet that includes adequate amounts of calories and protein. Physical exercise has repeatedly been demonstrated to enhance the function of the brain, the endocrine and immune systems, and skeletal muscle. It is also important to promote psychological health, like building relationships with others and cultivating a positive, hopeful outlook on life. These play a big role in helping many older patients stay active and vital.


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Cathy A. Maxwell, PhD                                                           Nancy Wise, Media Relations                                    



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