Objectives: To assess the relationship between physical frailty and subsequent decline in global cognitive function in the non-demented elderly. Design and setting: A prospective population-based study in a west Japanese suburban town, with two-year follow-up. Participants: Community-dwellers aged 65 and older without placement in long-term care, and not having a history of dementia, Parkinson’s disease and depression at baseline, who participated in the cohort of the Sasaguri Genkimon Study and underwent follow-up assessments two years later (N = 1,045). Measurements: Global cognitive function was assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). Physical frailty was identified according to the following five components: weight loss, low grip strength, exhaustion, slow gait speed and low physical activities. Linear regression models were used to examine associations between baseline frailty status and the MoCA scores at follow-up. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the risk of cognitive decline (defined as at least two points decrease of MoCA score) according to baseline frailty status. Results: Seven hundred and eight non-demented older adults were included in the final analyses (mean age: 72.6 ± 5.5 years, male 40.3%); 5.8% were frail, and 40.8% were prefrail at baseline. One hundred and fifty nine (22.5%) participants experienced cognitive decline over two years. After adjustment for baseline MoCA scores and all confounders, being frail at baseline was significantly associated with a decline of 1.48 points (95% confidence interval [CI], -2.37 to -0.59) in MoCA scores, as compared with non-frailty. Frail persons were over two times more likely to experience cognitive decline (adjusted odds ratio 2.28; 95% CI, 1.02 to 5.08), compared to non-frail persons. Conclusion: Physical frailty is associated with longitudinal decline in global cognitive function in the non-demented older adults over a period of two years. Physically frail older community-dwellers should be closely monitored for cognitive decline that can be sensitively captured by using the MoCA.
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