Glucose Levels and Risk of Frailty

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Sep;71(9):1223-9. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glw024. Epub 2016 Mar 1.


Background: The association between glucose levels and incident frailty in older persons remains unclear. We examined the extent to which higher glucose levels in older adults with and without diabetes are related to risk of frailty.

Methods: The data are from the Adult Changes in Thought study. We identified 1,848 individuals aged 65+ without dementia for whom glucose levels from laboratory measurements of glucose and glycated hemoglobin were available. Physical frailty using modified Fried's criteria was determined from biennial assessments. Frailty hazard was modeled as a function of time-varying measures of diabetes and average glucose levels using Cox regression.

Results: A total of 578 incident frailty cases (94 with diabetes, 484 without) occurred during a median follow-up of 4.8 years. The adjusted hazard ratio for frailty comparing those with and without diabetes was 1.52 (95% confidence interval = 1.19-1.94). In participants without diabetes, modeling suggested elevated frailty risk with greater average glucose levels (p = .019); for example, a glucose level of 110mg/dL compared with 100mg/dL yielded a hazard ratio of 1.32 (95% confidence interval = 1.09-1.59). In participants with diabetes, glucose levels less than 160mg/dL and greater than 180mg/dL were related to increased risk of frailty (p = .001).

Conclusion: Higher glucose levels may be a risk factor for frailty in older adults without diabetes. The apparent U-shape association between glucose levels and frailty in people with diabetes is consistent with the literature on glycemia and mortality and deserves further examination.

Keywords: Diabetes; Frailty; Glucose levels; Older adults; Prospective.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Frail Elderly* / statistics & numerical data
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / complications*
  • Hyperglycemia / diagnosis*
  • Hyperglycemia / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A