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What's new in research? Frailty

Avoiding frailty might be one of the most important challenges of our increasingly long lives. 

It’s a sign of the times that there’s now an Australian and New Zealand Society for Sarcopenia and Frailty Research (sarcopenia is muscle weakness). The Society held its first conference last year.

This year that conference was hosted by the University of Adelaide’s Frailty and Healthy Ageing Centre of Research Excellence. 

At a time when population ageing is an important topic for researchers, so too is frailty. It’s been described as a syndrome marked by slowness, weakness, fatigue, inactivity, impaired mobility and weight loss, and it's assessed with tests such as grip strength and walking speed.

A recent article in the New York Times reports that in the US, surgeons are using frailty (rather than age) to help make decisions about whether or not to operate on older patients and which procedures to use. Frail people have a high risk of complications. 

Some patients are put into physical training programs for several weeks before their surgery to make sure they’re robust enough to recover well.

In Australia it’s estimated that roughly one-quarter of people over 85 are frail.

When my father fell and broke his hip last year he died three days later. Yet I’ve known several women in their 80s who’ve broken hips and just gotten on with their lives and their rehab.

The difference is my dad was frail. Although he was still a relatively large man, he was weak, inactive and not very mobile. Crossing the street left him out of breath.

The key to preventing frailty is, of course, staying physically active and strong, and eating healthily. It’s having good habits and a healthy mindset in our 60s and 70s and keeping them up.

Photo Source: Bigstock 

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | Rhonda Anderson