The surprisingly early age our bodies begin to break down

The surprisingly early age our bodies begin to break down

In physiology, frailty is an umbrella term. It includes various age-associated impairments that contribute to reduced health and function among older adults. 

The multifaceted condition is an inevitable feature of the ageing process, but it is conditional on a few factors. Its onset and pathology depend on behavioural, psychological, genetic and dietary conditions.  

Comorbidities also have a huge role to play with respect to the rate of decline. 

Sadly, a study conducted by researchers at Flinders University posits that pre-frailty, which includes poor balance, a decreased ability to control spinal and pelvic posture, diminished foot sensations, and an impaired ability to maintain weight and nutrition, occurs in 45 per cent of people between the ages of 40 and 49. 

“This research identified pre-frailty and frailty states in people aged in their 40s and 50s. Pre-frailty in body systems performance can be detected by a range of mutable measures, and interventions to prevent progression to frailty could be commenced from the fourth decade of life,” the authors wrote in the new paper.

There is little known about pre-frailty attributes or when changes that contribute to frailty might be detectable and amenable to change. This study explores pre-frailty and frailty in independent community-dwelling adults aged 40–75 years.

A drop in the well

The authors of the study procured their 665 participants from local council networks, a national bank and a university located in Adelaide, Australia. 

Frailty scores were calculated via the presence of  the following phenotypes:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Exhaustion
  • Low physical activity levels
  • Poor handgrip strength and slow walking speed.

If a participant did not evidence any of the phenotypes indexed above they were classified as “not-frail”.

Participants who endured between one and two phenotypes were categorised as “pre-frail”.

Lastly, patients who exhibited three or more phenotypes were identified as medically frail.

“Factor analysis was applied to binary forms of 25 published frailty measures. Differences were tested in mean factor scores between the three Fried frailty phenotypes and ROC curves estimated predictive capacity of factors,” the authors said. 

“Of 656 participants,  59.2 per cent were classified as not frail, 39 per cent pre-frail, and 1.8 per cent frail. There were no gender or age differences. Seven frailty factors were identified, incorporating all 25 frailty measures.

“Factors 1 and 7 significantly predicted progression from not-frail to pre-frail, combined dynamic trunk stability and lower limb functional strength, balance, foot sensation, hearing, lean muscle mass, and low BMI;  comprising continence and nutrition.”

When we strip all of the poetry away, ageing is a slow and precise process, commissioned by a board of biological systems. Everything from sunlight to food becomes increasingly toxic to us, forcing degeneration to undertake a quicker and quicker pace. 

Understanding this fundamental process enables cosmetics and therapeutics to offset certain key mechanisms. Even so, we don’t have a hope of bypassing nature’s intended wholesale.

The only way to evade ageing’s wrath, medically speaking, is by yielding to its certainty.

Diet, exercise, quality sleep, and a stable mental state foster the kind of conditions that allow us to age gracefully, if not fractionally slower than the purported norm. 

“Successful ageing seeks to optimise health and independence. Indicators for successful ageing include minimal chronic disease, physical decline or depressive symptoms, and optimised social support, social participation and economic satisfaction,” the authors said.

“People working from home during the self-isolation period can take the opportunity to reassess their health, habits, and routines to seek ways to make their daily routines and homes better places to live, and live longer in the process,” concludes study co-author Professor Anthony Maeder, from the Digital Health Research Centre at Flinders University.

Be sure to read the full report published in the Journal BMC Geriatrics.


This article was originally published on The Ladders

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