Older Women With Unusually High Blood Sugar Levels Run Increased Risk of Frailty
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Frailty is a condition associated with aging that boosts risks of poor health, falls, disability and death. Signs of frailty include weakness, weight loss, slow walking speed, exhaustion and low activity levels.
Frailty seems to involve problems or "dysfunctions" in many body systems. Research has shown that health problems such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes can all boost risks of frailty.
People with diabetes have dangerously high levels of glucose, a form of sugar, in their blood because their bodies can't use the sugar properly. Unfortunately, growing numbers of older adults are being diagnosed with diabetes, which contributes to many health problems, including frailty. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. Unhealthy eating habits, overweight, a sedentary lifestyle, and other "risk factors" can boost the odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you have pre-diabetes, you have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, or mild hyperglycemia, but not high enough to be classified as "diabetes." At a higher level of blood sugar, that is, a higher level of hyperglycemia, you have actual diabetes.
New Research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
To find out whether hyperglycemia, like diabetes and pre-diabetes, is associated with frailty in later life, researchers studied more than 500 women, aged 70 to 79. The women had volunteered to participate in two large studies called the Women's Health and Aging Studies I and II. The women filled out questionnaires about their health, and had medical exams in which healthcare providers, among other things, measured their blood sugar levels and checked for five symptoms of frailty: weight loss, weakness, exhaustion, slowness and low physical activity.
Using data from these studies, the researchers checked to see whether women with hyperglycemia ran an increased risk of either frailty, which they defined as having three or more of the five symptoms for frailty, or "pre-frailty," which was defined as having one or two of these symptoms. These women with hyperglycemia would have either pre-diabetes or well-treated diabetes, if the hyperglycemia is just above normal, or diabetes that is poorly controlled, if the hyperglycemia is more severe.
Women with blood sugar levels just above normal didn't run an increased risk of frailty or "pre-frailty," the researchers report in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. But women with higher blood sugar levels did. In fact, the higher the blood sugar - and the more marked their hyperglycemia - the greater the risk, the researchers found. This was the case even after the researchers took into account other health problems that can also boost risks of frailty.
In light of this, they conclude that further research examining the effect of hyperglycemia on risk of frailty is needed.
The summary above is from the full report titled, "Is Hyperglycemia Associated with Frailty Status in Older Women?" It is in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Volume 57, Issue 5). The report is authored by Caroline S. Blaum, MD, MS; Qian Li Xue, PhD; Jing Tian, PhD; Richard D. Semba, MD, MPH; Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH; and Jeremy Walston, MD.