Jan. 24, 2023 – Managing belly bulge earlier in life could help prevent becoming medically frail, which is a major health risk for elderly people, according to a new study from Norway.

The findings are important because frailty is linked to a higher risk of falling, disability, hospitalization, and reduced quality of life. Becoming medically frail is defined by having most of these things: a slower walk, less grip strength, more exhaustion, unintentional weight loss, or a low physical activity level.

Researchers found that middle-aged people with larger waists were more likely to become frail later in life. The study was published Monday in the journal BMJ Open. Researchers followed 2,340 women and 2,169 men in Norway for 21 years, starting in 1994. All participants were age 45 or older at the beginning of the study.

A high waist circumference for men was 95 centimeters (37.4 inches) or greater. A high waist circumference for women was 81 centimeters (31.9 inches) or greater.

High body mass index was also linked to a higher risk of frailty. Your body mass index is a combined measure of height and weight. 

One of the top ways to prevent frailty is to stay active, according to the Mayo Clinic, which recommends activities such as walking 30 minutes per day or getting out in the garden.

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BMJ Open: “Body mass index, waist circumference and pre-frailty/frailty: the Tromsø study 1994−2016.”

Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic Minute: Staying vital as you age.”

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