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Frailty link to dementia "modifiable"

Wednesday November 4th 2020

New links have been found between the risk of dementia and frailty, which could be a modifiable risk factor, researchers say.

The researchers, based at the University of Glasgow, UK, explain that frailty is “a multisystem dysregulation” that can be defined using five individual components - weight loss, tiredness, physical activity, gait speed, and grip strength.

They investigated the possible link using information from 143,215 people taking part in the UK Biobank study. Participants were classified as ‘pre-frail’ if they fulfilled one or two criteria, or ‘frail’ if they fulfilled three or more.

Among the participants, 48% were classified as pre-frail and 4% as frail. Over about five years, the risk of dementia was over two-fold higher for those with pre-frailty, and nearly two-fold higher for those with frailty, compared with non-frail participants.

Weight loss, tiredness, low grip strength, and slow gait speed were each independently linked with dementia diagnosis.

The team calculate that pre-frailty and frailty accounted for 10% and 9% of dementia cases, respectively.

Writing in The Lancet Healthy Longevity they state: “Individuals with pre-frailty and frailty were at a higher risk of dementia incidence even after adjusting for a wide range of confounding factors. Early detection and interventions for frailty could translate into prevention or delayed onset of dementia.”

Lead author, Dr Carlos Celis-Morales, said: “There is an urgent need to identify potential risk factors that could prevent or slow development of this terrible disease. This study highlights the importance, moving forward, of early identification and treatment of patients with frailty.

“Public strategies aiming to improve physical capabilities, especially those related to muscle strength in middle-aged and older adults, might contribute to reducing the burden of frailty and, as a consequence, reduce the dementia risk attributable to frailty.”

Petermann-Rocha, F. et al. Associations between physical frailty and dementia incidence: a prospective study from UK Biobank. The Lancet Healthy Longevity 2 November 2020; doi: 10.1016/S2666-7568(20)30007-6

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Elderly Health | Fitness | UK News

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