Frailty symptoms and treatments affect men and women differently, according to a new research review.

Among adults over age 65, women tend to have more health problems and are more frail than men. Yet they are more resilient than men overall, reported geriatricians Emily Gordon, M.D., and Ruth Hubbard, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Queensland, Australia.

“At any given age or level of frailty, [womens’] mortality rates are lower,” they wrote.

The authors suggest that clinicians consider sex differences when providing care for frail geriatric patients. For example, some exercise- and nutrition-based interventions may work better for one sex than the other. 

While exercise programs appear to be effective for both sexes, sarcopenia, low physical activity and functional impairment are more prevalent in older women than men. Women may therefore benefit from a different type or intensity of exercise than men, Gordon and Hubbard theorized.

Conversely, men may benefit more from nutritional interventions than women. Several studies have indicated that men tend to have a poorer understanding of nutrition and make more unhealthy dietary decisions.

The correct care can make a big difference in a frail elder’s quality of life, they added. “A frail older person takes longer to recover after any sort of insult such as infection, infarction or adverse drug reactions, and during the period of recovery is more vulnerable to further stressors,” the authors wrote. “Increasing frailty is associated with syndromic disease presentations; falls, delirium, functional decline and new urinary incontinence may reflect acute illness in a frail older person and should never be dismissed as ‘normal for age.'”

The authors note that the evidence base for frailty interventions in institutionalized or hospitalized older adults is limited. Most of the research involved community-dwelling older adults.

 The study was published in The Medical Journal of Australia.