Frailty Correlates with Cognitive Decline

Frailty is known to correlate with risk of dementia, and here researchers observe an inverse correlation with cognitive function in a large study population of older adults. The many manifestations of aging, including age-related conditions, all arise from the underlying burden of molecular damage and disarray. To the degree that an older person is more damaged, one may expect them to exhibit greater tissue dysfunction and a higher risk of suffering many different conditions. Both frailty and neurodegenerative conditions are strongly linked to the chronic inflammation of aging, for example, the state known as inflammaging. This overactivation of the immune system is disruptive to health and tissue function throughout the body.

Frailty has been recognized as a growing issue in older adults, with recent evidence showing that this condition heralds several health-related problems, including cognitive decline. The objective of this work is to determine if frailty is associated with cognitive decline among older adults from different countries. We analyzed the baseline the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE), that includes six countries (Ghana, South Africa, Mexico, China, Russia, and India). A cross-sectional analysis was used to assess how frailty was related with the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) decision tree, while cognitive decline was evaluated using standardized scores of tests used in SAGE.

A total of 30,674 participants aged 50 years or older were included. To the best of our knowledge this is the first study to assess the association between cognitive performance tests and frailty measured using the CFS decision tree. Moreover, this adds to the current knowledge on how frailty relates to cognitive status in older adults, the higher the burden of frailty the lower the cognitive test scores.

Previous evidence shows that frailty could precede dementia and other neurocognitive disorders, and even be related to neuropathological findings. On the other hand, there have been some interventions - mainly based in physical activity - that have shown to improve the overall health status of an older adult with frailty, and this has the potential to stop the progression of both cognitive and physical decline. However, this relationship is still not fully understood, and merits further research.