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Reducing Frailty Could Help Prevent Dementia

Sourced from the International Council of Active Aging

Frailty is a strong risk factor for dementia, even among people who are at a high genetic risk for dementia, and it might be modified through a healthy lifestyle, a recent study suggests. The findings provide more motivation to intervene early with members and residents at risk.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 196,000 adults over age 60 in the UK Biobank. They calculated participants' genetic risk for dementia and used a frailty score that reflects the accumulation of age-related symptoms, signs, disabilities and diseases. They analyzed this alongside a score on healthy lifestyle behaviors, and looked at who went on to develop dementia.

Over the 10-year study period, dementia was detected in 1,762 of the participants -- and these individuals were much more likely to have a high degree of frailty before their diagnosis compared with those who did not develop dementia. While genetic risk factors exerted their expected effect on risk of dementia among participants who were healthy, genes were progressively less important among those who were the frailest. In frail participants, risk of dementia was high regardless of their genes.

Even in those at the highest genetic risk of dementia, risk was lowest among the individuals who were fit, and highest in people who were in poor health. However, the combination of high genetic risk and high frailty was particularly detrimental, with participants at six times greater risk of dementia than participants without either risk factor.

Compared with study participants with a low degree of frailty, risk of dementia was more than 2.5 times higher (268%) among those who had a high degree of frailty -- even after controlling for numerous genetic determinants of dementia.

Coauthor Dr. Janice Ranson of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "Tackling frailty could be an effective strategy to maintaining brain health, as well as helping people stay mobile and independent for longer in later life."

SOURCES: University of Exeter (December 22, 2021); Ward DD, et al. Frailty, lifestyle, genetics and dementia risk Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry Published Online First: 21 December 2021. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2021-327396

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