We’ve all seen it. An older adult who appears extremely fragile and walks slowly and hesitantly. They may also be exceptionally thin and their skin may even appear parchment-like. In other words, they are frail. We often associate frailty with old age. Yet the two are not synonymous. And becoming frail is not inevitable as we age. Frailty is a medical condition in itself, not a side effect of aging. Furthermore, there are many ways to start lowering your risk of frailty.

Next Avenue explains frailty and how it impacts older adults. Frailty can be defined as the ability to function and resilience. Therefore, it can impact a wide variety of areas. It also highly increases the risk of falls, delirium, disability, and death. Poorer recovery from surgeries and greater physical and mental decline also commonly occur.

This all sounds very scary and disheartening. But the reality is, we can prevent a lot of the risks to becoming frail. Dr. Linda Fried is a dean of public health at Columbia University. She and her colleagues claim that even just physical activity and diet can delay the onset of frailty. Additionally, your risk increases over time. So it’s vital to address this issue as soon as possible.

So what are some steps you can take to ward of frailty as you age? One step is to ensure adequate lean protein consumption and participate in resistance training. Both of these things help to build muscle, which is a huge benefit for our physical health as we age. In addition, chronic diseases highly increase the risk of becoming frail. Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke all can play a role. And those with dementia are ten times more likely to become frail. Therefore, managing and preventing chronic diseases becomes critical.

While frailty is common among seniors, it is not inevitable. Sometimes it can’t be prevented. But a lot of it comes down to the basics. Getting regular exercise, a healthy diet high in protein, and management of chronic diseases are all important. These simple things may sound like commonsense. But in the last twenty years, so much research has shown that these basics matter a lot as we age.