Wearable devices could predict frailty risk in older people

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Wearable devices have become valuable tools for tracking various aspects of our health.

A recent study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital highlights the potential of these devices in predicting health complications related to frailty in older adults.

Frailty is a common condition among older populations, and early detection can significantly impact the quality of life for these individuals.

Understanding Frailty and Circadian Rhythms

Frailty refers to the age-related decline in physiological function, which makes older adults more vulnerable to health problems.

Disruptions in circadian rest-activity rhythms, the daily patterns of rest and activity, have previously been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Aging itself can alter these patterns, with older individuals often preferring earlier daily routines compared to younger adults.

Using Wearable Devices for Long-Term Health Monitoring

The study involved the use of wearable devices to monitor circadian rest-activity rhythms in a cohort of 1,022 older adults, with an average age of 81.

These participants were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project and had been followed for up to 16 years. The researchers examined various aspects of the rest-activity patterns, including their amplitude, stability, and variability.

Predicting Frailty Risk

Over an average follow-up period of more than six and a half years, 357 participants developed frailty. The study identified a significant association between disrupted or inconsistent rest-activity patterns and an increased risk of developing frailty.

These disturbances were also linked to a faster progression of frailty symptoms, including a decrease in grip strength, reduced body mass index, and increasing fatigue.

Importantly, these associations held true regardless of age, sex, sleep duration, sleep quality, and cardiovascular health.

Exploring the Mechanisms Behind Frailty

The study’s findings suggest a potential overlap in the mechanisms behind frailty and cognitive impairment, as circadian disruptions have previously been associated with sleep disorders, altered metabolism, and neuronal loss.

While this research provides valuable insights, it is important to note that the study focused on an older population with an average age of over 80.

Additionally, circadian patterns can be influenced by seasonal variations and environmental factors, and wearable devices may not always accurately interpret sleep-wake cycles.

Early Identification and Intervention

The use of wearable technology, such as smartwatches and activity trackers, holds promise in the early identification of frailty risk among older adults.

By monitoring circadian rest-activity rhythms and combining this data with other clinical measures, healthcare professionals can potentially intervene early to promote healthy aging in susceptible populations.

Further research is needed to better understand the causal relationship between circadian disturbances and frailty and to refine the use of wearable devices in healthcare.

If you care about Parkinson’s disease, please read studies about Vitamin E that may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, and Vitamin D could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about new ways to treat Parkinson’s disease, and results showing COVID-19 may be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

The research findings can be found in Nature Communication.

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