CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Health

December 12, 2012

Treating frailty for what it is — a medical condition

(Continued)

An inflammatory problem?

Jeremy D. Walston, a geriatrician and molecular biologist who co-directs the Biology of Healthy Aging Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes that frailty may in part be related to the body's inability to regulate its normal inflammatory response. His research has found that frail people suffer from a constant low-grade inflammatory state.

"When something attacks the body, it sends out a number of inflammatory signals to fight an infection or heal a wound,'' says Walston, who also is principal investigator for Hopkins' Older Americans Independence Center. "In frailty, these pathways get turned on, and they don't get turned off." Such chronic inflammation can lead to weakening of skeletal muscles and the immune system.

Frail people also are less able to process glucose properly, he says, and they secrete more cortisol, a hormone that over time, as with chronic inflammation, also can damage skeletal muscles and the immune system.

Scientists don't yet understand how these findings relate to the more predictable changes associated with aging, or whether they are a cause — or a consequence — of frailty.

Researchers also are studying the impact of moderate physical exercise in preventing the most powerful indicator of frailty: slow walking speed. An ongoing study of 1,600 people between the ages of 70 and 89 is comparing the effects of a moderate-intensity walking and weightlifting to a program of health education only. The exercise group walks for 30 minutes several times a week and uses ankle weights to improve lower body strength. The education group receives information on diet, managing medications and other health-related matters, but not about physical exercise.

A smaller, earlier phase of the study suggested that physical activity was key, with a 26 percent reduction in walking problems among those who worked out regularly.

"You don't have to go to an exercise program at the gym,'' Kaufman says. "Clean your house. Walk to the mailbox to get your mail, or work in your garden. The greatest common denominator of frailty is muscle loss and slowing of gait, and it's amazing what physical exercise can do.''

Walston agrees. "Growing old may be inevitable, but growing frail is not,'' he says.

Cimons is a former Washington-based health policy reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

Text Only
Health
  • COMMENTARY: An alternative diagnosis to ADHD: Schoolchildren need more time to move

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that in recent years, there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2011.

    July 18, 2014

  • Guideline: Most healthy women can skip pelvic exam

    No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

    July 1, 2014

  • Sanofi targets fake Viagra market with non-prescription Cialis

    Sanofi sees an attractive opportunity in the rampant market for counterfeit Viagra: luring men away from dodgy online pharmacies with an over-the-counter version of a competing erection drug.

    June 5, 2014

  • Hospital charges to treat chest pain jump 10 percent in a year

    The charge to treat Medicare patients with chest pain at U.S. hospitals rose 10 percent to $18,568 in just a year, the biggest rise seen among the most common inpatient procedures, according to federal data.

    June 2, 2014

  • Study: Both men and women feel less stress at work than at home

    In a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, researchers carefully examined the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, of a variety of workers throughout the day. The data clearly showed that both men and women are significantly less stressed out at work than they are at home.
     And the women they studied said they were happier at work. While the men said they felt happier at home.

    May 26, 2014

  • Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work

    A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country's economic malaise.

    May 12, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Helmets won't protect your kids from concussions

    When I was a kid, helmets were for motorcyclists. Now I see children wearing helmets when they're scooting down sidewalks, skating, skiing, sledding and playing soccer. Last week one of my friends saw a helmeted kid power-walking in Prospect Park. You can even buy $40 baby helmets on Amazon, because, according to the product description, "babies will always fall taking their first steps."

    May 2, 2014

  • 400px-Cannabis_Plant.jpg How bad is marijuana for your health?

    The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a study linking recreational marijuana use to subtle changes in brain structure. The researchers, led by Jodi Gilman of Massachusetts General Hospital, identified increased gray matter density in the left nucleus accumbens and some bordering areas.

    May 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014