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Research pinpoints frailty as risk for Alzheimer's disease, dementia


HALIFAX — Researchers have discovered that frailty is a key risk factor for dementia.

A study by Halifax's Dalhousie University and Chicago's Rush University found frailty aggravates the effects of plaques and tangles — the jumbled strands of proteins that accumulates in some brains.

It found frailty may even be a risk factor on its own, and resilience may be the most important protection against Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The first-of-its-kind study, published in Lancet Neurology, looked at autopsy and clinical data from 456 people.

The subjects were part of Rush University's Memory and Aging Project, and their frailty was measured on an index developed at Dalhousie that ranks physical health deficits and the ability to function.

The researchers say seniors' homes are key for promoting preventive measures like social interaction, physical activity and healthy eating.

"We confirmed that there are a lot of people with lots of plaques and tangles who don't have dementia," Lindsay Wallace, a PhD candidate at Dalhousie and co-author of the paper, said in a statement.

"These people were less frail. Conversely, there were people with very few plaques and tangles who had severe dementia. These people were very frail — in fact, they were more frail even than the people who had lots of plaques and tangles and dementia."

The Canadian Press

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