Frailty is best described as a syndrome of loss of energy, muscle mass and strength, intolerance to exercise and diminished physiological reserve. Decreased immune function is also associated with frailty.
With increased longevity, more and more people are living past the age of 80 and exhibiting typical symptoms of frailty. This is more in women than men because women have a longer lifespan.
If a person has 3 or more of the following characteristics, he or she might be termed as frail.
- Slowed performance
- Fatigue or poor endurance
- Unintentional weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Low physical activity
Other risk factors of frailty in older adults are difficulty in managing daily activities at home, recent falls or an innate fear of falling, memory loss, confusion, and concerns expressed by the family about the person.
Frail persons are more likely to fall ill, become hospitalized or disabled, and develop high sensitivity with intolerance to heat and cold.
Smokers, sufferers from chronic illness, malnourished and underweight people and depressives are predisposed to frailty.
Some suggestions to combat or defer the onset of frailty are as follows:
- Structure some physical activity according to the person’s abilities in each day’s program. Walking is by far the easiest which stimulates the heart and circulation, and improves overall fitness.
- Keep the mind active with motivating exercises. These could be reading, playing board games and solving puzzles.
- Identify and treat psychiatric illnesses, especially depression which need not be clinical in nature.
- Have a well balanced diet which must include adequate quantities of fruits and vegetables, fluids and fibers.
- Complement the diet with vitamin and other prescribed nutritional supplements.
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