According to a study, reducing frailty in older individuals can be an effective strategy for dementia prevention. The study showed that frailty was a significant dementia risk factor, even in individuals who have a high genetic dementia risk, and that it can be modified by adopting a healthy lifestyle.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
Data were used from over 196,000 individuals older than 60 from the UK Biobank. Genetic risk was calculated and a previously-developed frailty score was used, which represents the accumulation of age-related diseases, signs, symptoms, and disabilities. This was analyzed alongside a healthy lifestyle behavior score together with who eventually developed dementia.
There is increasing evidence that dementia risk can be significantly reduced by taking meaningful action throughout life. This research is important in helping to understand how reducing frailty may help to improve an individual’s chances of preventing dementia, irrespective of genetic predisposition. This is significant because some of the fundamental causes of frailty can be prevented by participating in healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Dementia was identified in 1,762 of the individuals from hospital admission records throughout the UK Biobank study’s 10-year period, and these individuals were much more likely to have a high frailty level before their diagnosis in comparison to those who didn’t develop dementia.
The importance of reducing or preventing frailty was emphasized when the effect of genetic risk in individuals with different frailty levels was examined. Genetic risk factors had their anticipated effect on dementia risk in healthy individuals, but genes were less important in the frailest individuals. In those frail individuals, dementia risk was high irrespective of their genes.
Even in individuals with the highest genetic dementia risk, it was observed that risk was lowest in fit individuals, and highest in unhealthy individuals, which was measured as a high frailty level.
The high genetic risk combined with high frailty was however found to be especially detrimental, with these individuals having a 6 times higher dementia risk compared to individuals who had neither risk factor.
In comparison to individuals with a low frailty level, dementia risk was over 2.5 times higher in individuals having a high frailty level even after several genetic determinants of dementia were taken into account.
Pathways to reducing the risk of dementia were identified in this study. Individuals who reported participating more in healthy lifestyle behaviors, and subsequently a lower frailty level, had less risk of developing dementia.
Dementia risk reflects lifestyle, neuropathological, genetic, and general health factors that subsequently bring about various brain abnormalities. The study is a significant breakthrough in the role of frailty, which seems to have a potentially modifiable pathway that influences dementia risk.
These results have extremely positive significance, showing it’s not true that dementia is unavoidable, even if having a high genetic risk. Meaningful action can be taken to help reduce the risk and dealing with frailty could be an effective strategy for maintaining the health of the brain, along with helping older individuals remain mobile and independent.