Pre-frailty signs may be a wake-up call to build physical and mental health for successful aging, according to a new study.

Investigators found detectable pre-frailty in adults as young as 40, and the syndrome appears not to be linked to age or gender, reported Professor Sue Gordon, of Flinders University, Australia. In fact, pre-frailty was found to occur in 45% of participants aged 40 to 49 – about the same percentage that it occurs in adults ages 70 to 75.

To determine pre-frailty and frailty, researchers used the Fried frailty phenotype. Frailty in this measurement is defined when three or more of the following factors are present: unintentional weight loss, exhaustion, low physical activity levels, poor hand grip strength and slow walking speed. Pre-frailty is defined as having one or two factors present.

Gordon and colleagues recommend that adults who exhibit pre-frailty signs work to improve changeable health factors to reduce or avoid frailty and higher mortality risk. These include: 

Pre-frailty indicators: Poor dynamic trunk stability and lower limb strength, poor balance, poor foot sensation, being underweight, pelvic floor problems and poor nutrition.

Pre-frailty to frailty factors: Poor mental state linked to living alone, high psychological distress, poor lung function and poor sleep quality.

Full findings were published in BMC Geriatrics.