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Detecting frailty early may “reduce risk of dementia”, study suggests

Detecting frailty early may help reduce the risk of dementia or delay its onset, a major study has revealed.

The research, led by Glasgow University, suggests that frailty or pre-frailty is associated with dementia in almost 20 per cent of cases.

Frailty is a common condition among older people characterised by poor mental and physical resilience and the inability to “bounce back” and recover from illness and injury.

But detecting frailty early – such as weight loss, tiredness, low grip strength and slow gait speed – and hastening treatment could help reduce dementia rates across the UK, said the researchers.

According to the study, the risk of dementia was 20 per cent higher for individuals with pre-frailty and almost doubled for those with frailty compared to non-frail individuals. Individuals with frailty aged younger than 60 years old also had an increased risk of dementia compared with those who were older, suggesting age is not the only factor in cognitive decline.

Commenting on the research, lead author Dr Carlos Celis-Morales said: “Given that currently available medicines can neither cure nor reverse dementia, and offer little symptom relief, there is an urgent need to identify potential risk factors that could prevent or slow development of this terrible disease.

“This study further exposes the link between pre frailty and frailty and the risk of dementia, and highlights the importance, moving forward, of early identification and treatment of patients with frailty. Public strategies aiming to improve physical capabilities, especially those related to muscle strength in middle-aged and older adults, might contribute to reducing the burden of frailty and, as a consequence, reduce the dementia risk attributable to frailty.”

According to the latest statistics, there are currently around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. The Alzheimer’s Society, however, suggests this will increase to 1.6 million by 2040.

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