How quickly people age varies. Lack of activity and poor diet are the largest modifiable risk factors – or risk factors that you can control – for declines with aging. Keeping a healthy body weight, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar, and being active every day are important. Engaging with others and having a purpose for your life also support healthy aging. Heart disease risk factors are closely tied to risk factors for frailty and memory loss.
You are considered frail when your body no longer has the reserves of strength and ability to bounce back from illness it once had. Signs of frailty include:
- unexplained weight loss
- poor appetite
- difficulty walking or getting out of a chair
- unexplained fatigue
- low activity level
Conditions that can be treated — such as heart failure or an infection — may cause these symptoms. However, among people with heart and blood vessel disease, 3 out of 10 of those over age 80 and more than 4 out of 10 of those over age 90 have an underlying state of frailty. Frailty often comes before sharp declines in health. It also can signal a need for levels of care when considering procedures or high-risk treatments. Frail patients might need different care from patients who are not frail.
Memory loss also is common with aging and more often seen in frail patients. Often it is a minor issue and can be managed with reminders. However, it can pose challenges to managing medication, understanding instructions, and keeping up with health needs.
More advanced memory loss poses great stress on the individual and caregivers. More help is almost always needed in this stage.