Physical Activity Lowers Risk of Death from Heart Disease

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Frailty is a health condition that increases risks of poor health, falls, disability, and death in older adults. Signs of frailty include weakness, weight loss, slow walking speed, exhaustion, and low levels of activity. As our population ages, scientists expect that more and more of us will need to address frailty and its associated health concerns.

Geriatrics is the branch of healthcare dedicated to working with older people. Geriatrics experts have suggested that physical activity may one of the best ways to prevent frailty.

Physical activity includes walking and other gentle forms of exercise. It is proven to improve health. Physical activity can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, several cancers, and depression. Exercise also can improve your ability to perform your daily activities and can lower your risk of death from heart disease. In frail older adults, physical activity has been shown to improve strength, balance, agility (the ability to move quickly and easily), walking speed, and muscle mass (the amount of muscle you have in your body). These are all key functions tied to frailty.

Researchers recently reviewed a number of studies about exercise in frail older adults. The review found a number of studies that showed exercise helped reduce falls, improved walking ability, improved balance or increased muscle strength.  However, we still don’t know whether physical activity can reduce death among frail older adults.

Researchers recently designed a study to fill that knowledge gap by exploring whether physical activity could lower the high rate of death associated with frailty in older people. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Poor Dental Health Increases Risks of Frailty in Older Men

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Oral health issues are common among older adults. These issues include tooth loss, gum disease, tooth decay, and dry mouth. These conditions can also affect an older adult’s well-being because they may make it harder to eat, swallow, speak, get adequate nutrition, and even smile.

Oral health issues like tooth loss and gum disease are also linked to increased risks of frailty. Frailty is the medical term for becoming more vulnerable to declining health or the inability to perform the activities of daily living. Frailty is a major healthcare challenge for older adults and caregivers. Someone who is frail can be weak, have less endurance, and be less able to function well. Frailty increases the risk for falls, disability, and even death.

Over a three-year period, researchers from the United Kingdom examined the relationship between poor oral health and older adults’ risks for becoming frail. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers studied information from the British Regional Heart Study. This study included 7,735 British men. They were first examined in 1978 to 1980 when they were 40- to 59-years-old. In 2010 to 2012, researchers invited 1,722 surviving participants to be re-examined. During that time period, the participants were 71- to 92-years-old.

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Hospice Care Offers Comfort for Older Adults at End of Life. Should it be Considered Sooner?

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

A team of researchers from Yale University has studied how soon older adults who were experiencing distressing symptoms and disability were admitted to hospice near the end of their lives. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers examined information from a study of 562 people, aged 70 and older, who were not disabled when the study began. Of these people, 244 (43.4 percent) were admitted to hospice during the last year of life. These people were slightly older and more likely to have cognitive impairments (problems thinking and making decisions) than those individuals who weren’t admitted to hospice.

The most common condition leading to death was frailty (the medical term for physical weakness or an increasing likelihood for poor health), followed by organ failure (the term for certain parts of our body no longer working as they should), advanced dementia, and cancer. Continue reading

Frailty and Older Men: Study Identifies Factors that Speed or Slow Progression

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, we may be less able to perform daily activities because we may feel frail, or weaker than we have in the past. Frailer older adults may walk more slowly and have less energy. Frailty also raises a person’s risks for falling, breaking a bone, becoming hospitalized, developing delirium, and dying.

No one knows exactly how many older adults are frail—estimates range from 4 percent to 59 percent of the older adult population, according to a 2015 study. Researchers say that frailty seems to increase with age, and is more common among women than men and in people with lower education and income. Being in poorer health and having several chronic illnesses also have links to being frail.

Frailty also tends to worsen over time, but in at least two studies, a small number (9 percent to 14 percent) of frail older adults became stronger and less frail as they aged. A team of researchers decided to find out what factors might predict whether frailty in older men worsens or improves over time. The researchers’ findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading