Preventing frailty could delay or prevent dementia

Dementia is in the cards for many. It is a common typically age-related cognitive decline, which is a burden for the patients and their families. Dementia is an incurable condition and one of the most common causes of death as well.

It is estimated that around 50 million people globally live with dementia, but who knows the real number – most dementia cases go undiagnosed.

Maintaining strength can be hard as you age, but frailty in many cases is a preventable condition. Image credit: Terry Thompson via Wikimedia

Now scientists at the University of Glasgow analysed the data from 143,215 UK Biobank participants to see how frailty correlates with dementia. Frailty is another common age-related condition, however, in some cases it might be preventable. Scientists believe that a quick diagnosis and treatment for frailty may actually reduce the dementia burden.

68,500 (47,8%) participants were pre-frail and 5,565 (3,9%) were already frail. When scientists followed up with them in 5,4 years, 726 participants had developed dementia. Scientists found that frailty and pre-frailty accounted for almost 20% of dementia cases. Scientists say that  the risk of dementia incidence was increased by 20% for individuals with pre-frailty and almost doubled for those with frailty when compared to those who are not frail.

Most components of frailty can be independently associated with dementia, but individuals with slow gait have the largest increased risk of dementia. This is especially true that people are younger – those who weren’t even 60 and were experiencing frailty, were much more likely to be diagnosed later on. It is normal to become weaker as you age, but when it starts happening early it is a reason to be worried about the possibility of incoming dementia.

Of course, dementia affects those individuals who are not frail as well. However, scientists found that people suffering from frailty are likely to experience dementia 3,58 years earlier than non-frail individuals. In many cases frailty is preventable, although a lot of people view it as a normal part of aging. Dr Carlos Celis-Morales, lead author of the study, said: “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.”

This research supplements the idea that up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed. Frailty is a major risk factor and limiting it would be absolutely crucial. Hopefully, this study will lead to doctors paying more attention to the early signs of frailty. It would also be absolutely important to support frailty research as preventing frailty could delay or prevent dementia.

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