Purpose: Frailty, which has been conceptualized as a state of decreased physiologic reserve contributing to functional decline, has a prevalence among older African Americans that is twice that in older whites. This study assesses the independent contribution of race to frailty.
Methods: We evaluated 786 African-American and 4491 white participants of the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS). Frailty is defined as meeting three or more of five criteria derived from CHS measures: lowest quintile for grip strength, self-reported exhaustion, unintentional weight loss of 10 lbs or greater in 1 year, slowest quintile for gait speed, and lowest quintile for physical activity. Controlling for age, sex, comorbidity, socioeconomic factors, and race, multinomial logistic regression estimated the odds ratio (OR) of prefrail (one or two criteria) to not frail and frail to not frail.
Results: Among African Americans, 8.7% of men and 15.0% of women were frail compared with 4.6% and 6.8% of white men and women, respectively. In adjusted models, nonobese African Americans had a fourfold greater odds of frailty compared with whites. The increased OR of frailty associated with African-American race was less pronounced among those who were obese or disabled.
Conclusion: African-American race is associated independently with frailty.