Frailty increases risk of comorbidities and death, regardless of HIV status: AIGHD-led study

A new study has shown that frailty contributes to comorbidities and death among the aging population, regardless of whether someone is living with HIV.

In treating aging populations, including those living with HIV, a frailty assessment can help physicians to identify patients at risk for developing comorbidities or mortality.

The five-factor assessment includes weight loss, low physical activity, exhaustion, walking speed and a grip strength test. Positive results for at least three factors can indicate someone as frail.

“We know that people living with HIV have an increased risk of developing frailty, and we found that frail individuals have a higher mortality risk, regardless of HIV status,” said Eveline Verheij, a PhD Fellow at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and MD.

In her research findings presented at the recent AIDS2018 Conference, Eveline suggested those who were diagnosed as frail had a higher chance of developing comorbidities or dying, compared to those who were not frail, HIV-positive or not.

Data from the AGEhIV study cohort – including people living with HIV and a demographically comparable HIV-uninfected study participant group – were analyzed and participants were also assessed using the frailty tool.

“When we adjusted for the HIV status in the analysis, we found frailty to be an independent risk factor for developing co-morbidities and early death, completely separate from HIV status.”

The results from the study, titled “Increased risk of both mortality and incident comorbidity among frail HIV-positive and HIV-negative participants in the AGEhIV Cohort Study, and increased risk of frailty progression in those with HIV”, can offer valuable insight to care providers and physicians looking after their aging patient populations. She added that mortality rates among those who were diagnosed as frail are relatively low, so early prevention and ongoing support is crucial.

“If care providers know their patients are at an increased risk for adverse health outcomes, they can work with their patients to help them maintain their physical and mental health and ultimately reduce the risk of both becoming frail and developing comorbidities,” Eveline said.

“Not every patient who has comorbidities is frail and often patients can look healthy and still be frail. The assessment takes a few moments to complete and can help maintain long-term physical and mental health.”

Read more about Eveline’s work through the AGEhIV project.