Frailty is a common syndrome that is associated with vulnerability to poor health outcomes. Over the past 15 years, a “frailty syndrome” has emerged in the geriatric medical community with a fair bit of research around the diagnosis and implications of the syndrome. Frailty syndrome is defined as age-related deficits in normal function involving multiple bodily systems. This rather vague definition actually means loss of muscle, endurance, endurance, sometimes weight and general shape. Often the definition implies the presence of at least two chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, heart disease, etc. The diagnostic criteria are weakness, slowness, low level of physical activity, easy exhaustion, low endurance and weight loss. Most of these can be measured with tests such as grip strength for weakness or time to walk 15 feet for slowness. You must have at least 3 criteria to qualify for fragility.

The medical definition of frailty requires that three of these characteristics be present:

  • Shrinking/weight loss (10 pounds or more in one year)
  • Physical exhaustion (self-reported)
  • Muscle weakness (measured by weak grip strength)
  • Decline in walking speed
  • Low physical activity


Low physical activity isn’t just a consequence of weight loss and loss of muscle mass – it can become a cause. Higher physical activities force a person to eat more, to replenish the body with the calories it expends. When you are not physically active, appetite decreases and leads to insufficient protein and calorie intake. 

What To Do

Assisted Living:

A place for adults who don’t need full-time nursing care but need help with everyday tasks, like getting dressed, bathing, eating, or using the bathroom . Residents often need help with memory problems, incontinence or mobility issues. The centers provide a warm atmosphere, providing meals, housekeeping, laundry, recreational activities, transportation and assistance 24 hours a day.

Mediterranean diet:

traditional cuisine from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, known to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and dementia. On the menu: full of fruits, vegetables and beans, with olive oil, nuts, whole grains, seafood; moderate amounts of low fat yogurt, low fat cheese and poultry; small amounts of red meat and sweets; and wine, in moderation, with meals.

Muscle mass:

Your muscles contract for powerful movements, and their mass refers to their size. The greater your muscle mass, the bigger and denser your muscles. The term lean body mass is the weight of your muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and internal organs.

Whole Grains:

Grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, and barley always have their outer shell that is high in fiber, called bran, and their inner germ. It provides vitamins, minerals and good fats. Choosing whole grain side dishes, cereals, breads and more can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and improve digestion.

Making the physical activity routine seem easy and straightforward, but from my clinical perspective, regular exercise can be difficult to maintain for older patients. Despite the challenge, this simple intervention can be the basis for avoiding frailty and disability and maintaining independence and a high quality of life.

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