Operationalizing frailty in the atherosclerosis risk in communities study cohort

Anna M. Kucharska-Newton, Priya Palta, Sheila Burgard, Michael E. Griswold, Jennifer L. Lund, Benjamin D. Capistrant, Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Karen Bandeen-Roche, B. Gwen Windham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Factors that may contribute to the development of frailty in late life have not been widely investigated. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study cohort presents an opportunity to examine relationships of midlife risk factors with frailty in late life. However, we first present findings on the validation of an established frailty phenotype in this predominantly biracial population of older adults. Methods: Among 6,080 participants, we defined frailty based upon the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) criteria incorporating measures of weight loss, exhaustion, slow walking speed, low physical activity, and low grip strength. Criterion and predictive validity of the frailty phenotype were estimated from associations between frailty status and participants' physical and mental health status, physiologic markers, and incident clinical outcomes. Results: A total of 393 (6.5%) participants were classified as frail and 50.4% pre-frail, similar to CHS (6.9% frail, 46.6% pre-frail). In ageadjusted analyses, frailty was concurrently associated with depressive symptoms, low self-rated health, low medication adherence, and clinical biomarker levels (ie, cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c, white blood cell count, C-reactive protein, and hemoglobin). During 1-year follow-up, frailty was associated with falls, low physical ability, fatigue, and mortality. Conclusions: These findings support the validity of the CHS frailty phenotype in the ARIC Study cohort. Future studies in ARIC may elucidate early-life exposures that contribute to late-life frailty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) contracts (HHSN268201100005C, HHSN268201100006C, HHSN268201100007C, HHSN268201100008C, HHSN268201100009C, HHSN268201100010C, HHSN268201100011C, and HHSN268201100012C). Neurocognitive data are collected by U01 HL096812, HL096814, HL096899, HL096902, and HL096917 from the NHLBI and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The co-first author (P.P.) was supported by a post-doctoral training fellowship from NHLBI Training Grant (T32 HL007055).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016.


  • Cohort study
  • Epidemiology
  • Frailty


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