A recent article by NYTimes columnist Karen Pennar focuses on an ordinary word that has specific meaning in the context of healthcare: frailty.
Many of us use the word to describe the many changes that make someone look, sound and act "old."
In the 1990s, Dr. Linda P. Fried developed two medical definitions -- i.e., labels -- to diagnose people who are at least 65 years old: People are "frail" when three or more of the following five criteria are present and "pre-frail" when two of the following criteria are present:
- unintentional weight loss of 10 pounds or more in the past year
- self-reported exhaustion
- weakness (as measured by grip strength)
- slow walking speed
- low physical activity
In healthcare, such medical labels often serve as a necessary first step towards improved care. By defining "frail," Dr. Fried encouraged the medical community to:
- recognize the condition
- take steps to prevent, detect early and treat the condition
- pursue research into its prevention, detection and treatment
As a side note, clinicians must keep in mind that just as overweight patients can become malnourished, such patients can develop “core frailty.” These patients should benefit from the same interventions that help normal- or underweight patients.
In my next column, I'll highlight the work of Dr. Fried because her work promotes Healthy Survivorship.