Depressed fat man sitting on bed at home, worried about overweight, insecuritiesIf you’re carrying a few extra pounds across your waistline now, it could spell trouble later.

New research suggests that body fat, particularly around the waist, could up the odds for frailty.

The study, published in BMJ Open, found that obese people who’ve packed on pounds around their waist are more likely to develop symptoms of frailty in the future. These include exhaustion, weak grip strength, slow walking speed, and lower activity levels.

Frailty can lead to a higher risk of injury from a fall, a greater likelihood of disability or hospitalization resulting from a fall, a lower quality of life, and premature death.

Frailty may affect as many as 17 percent of older adults, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Researchers tracked more than 4,500 people in Norway for average of 21 years, starting at an average age of 51. Measurements of Body Mass Index (BMI) were taken at the outset.

Waistlines of 37 inches or less for men, or 31 or less for women, were categorized as “normal,” were “moderately high” if they were 37 – 40 inches for men and 32-35 inches, and were considered “high” if above these ranges.
People who were obese at the beginning of the study were 2.5 times as likely to be frail or on the edge of frailty by the study’s end. Likewise, people with a large waist circumference were twice as likely to be frail or pre-frail compared to those with a normal waistline.

Folks with a moderately large waistline were 57 percent as likely to be frail or pre-frail.

Interestingly, the risk of frailty was not seen in those who started with a normal BMI but a moderately large waistline or those who were overweight but had a normal waistline. Higher odds of frailty were seen in people who grew a spare tire.

These findings suggest that obesity and abdominal fat can aggravate age-related declines in muscle strength, aerobic capacity, and physical function. It may also spur increased inflammation, which could contribute to weakness.

To maintain muscle strength and functionality with age, focus on losing fat and building muscle through resistance training.

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