You don’t need to be thin to be frail

Dr Katie Sheehan is a Vancouver based physiotherapist and a recent research fellow at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. You can see her platform presentation at 11.45 on Friday 21st at the BGS Scientific Meeting.obeseFrailty

Frailty is often thought of as a wasting disorder and, as such, is frequently considered a consequence of ageing incurred by those older adults who present as underweight.  The Fried model of frailty includes reduced gait velocity, low physical activity levels, weakness, exhaustion and weight loss. But frailty isn’t the sole preserve of the thin. As people get older, muscle mass is replaced by fat and physical function deteriorates. This phenomenon offers a particular difficulty for obese older adults who have too low a muscle mass relative to their body size. This mismatch represents a substantial barrier to physical function and may help to explain the recently reported cross sectional ‘U’ shaped relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and frailty. This correlation suggests that those who are underweight (body mass index (BMI) < 18.5 kg.m²) and those who are obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg.m²) are more likely to present as frail. Continue reading