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Inflammation Associated With Chronic Pain May Contribute to Frailty

Atherosclerosis Study: Midlife Inflammation

Conclusions from a study of almost 6,000 individuals over a 24-year span suggest that chronic inflammation experienced in middle age may be associated with greater incidence of frailty and poorer overall health in later life. The research team, led by investigators from Johns Hopkins Medicine, caution that the findings do not establish a causal relationship between inflammation and later adverse outcomes. However, the results “provide support for theories suggesting a role for systemic inflammation in the development of frailty and related poor health in older age,” according to lead author Keenan Walker, PhD, a clinical neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The conclusions were published in the March edition of Journal of Gerontology.

The study reviewed data from 5,760 US adults now in their 70s, who had completed a national, long-term investigation of atherosclerosis. Over the course of 5 medical examinations starting in their 40s and 50s, participants were assessed for various markers of inflammation. At the 5th exam, they were categorized for degree of robustness or frailty according to scores on several attributes of health. Overall, it was found that each standard deviation of elevated inflammation in midlife was connected to a 39% greater likelihood for frailty in later life. Coauthor Jeremy Walston, MD, the Raymond and Anna Lublin Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins, commented, “Stay tuned—hopefully we’ll be able to say with more accuracy in the not-too-distant future that treating chronic inflammation will reduce your risk of muscle decline and related frailty.”

Read more about the research conclusions.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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