FAQ017: What is frailty?

We can all picture the frail older person and we don’t want that to be us

Frailty is a condition seen in older adults where there is a vulnerability to getting sick. With our population getting older, this is an important condition for us to be aware of because being frail is a risk factor for a lot of negative health outcomes.

How do we define frailty?

There are two ways that we try to explain frailty when we are talking about it in the healthcare systems or in the research… the physical phenotype and the accumulation of deficits.

The Physical Phenotype

The Physical Phenotype, says that there are 5 different attributes that characterize a person as frail. They are muscle weakness, slow walking speed, tiredness or fatigue, low physical activity and weight loss. If you have three or more of these attributes would characterize a person as being frail.

The Accumulation of Deficits

The Accumulation of Deficits hypothesis talks about that as we get older, we are more likely to have different illnesses, diseases and conditions come up in our life. With this hypothesis, it is thought that the more conditions you have, the more likely you are to be frail.

Frailty is a big component of Christina’s doctoral work and something she talks about often. Preventing frailty from developing is a really important and exercise is one of the main ways we can do that. Strength training in particular can have a huge influence on the quality of our lives, especially in our 70s, 80s, and 90s. We are redefining our experience as we get older, one rep at a time!

Like this video? Learn more through other videos in our FAQ series… like this one that talks about rheumatoid arthritis! If that interests you … we also have a “How-To” guide for exercising if you have RA!

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Christina Prevett

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