Each year, unintentional falls in the United States account for more than 16,000 deaths and 1.8 million emergency room visits.
“At age 60, 85 percent of people have a normal walking ability. However, by age 85, only 18 percent of seniors can walk normally,” said study author Farzaneh Sorond, MD, PhD, with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
For the study, researchers followed 419 people age 65 or older. Ultrasound tests were used to measure participant’s blood flow in the brain. Walking speed was measured by a four-meter walking test. The seniors and their caregivers reported any falls that occurred over two years.
The study found that the 20 percent of people who had the slowest rate of blood flow in the brain were at a 70 percent higher risk of falling compared to the 20 percent of people who had the highest rate of blood flow in the brain. Those with the slowest rate had an average of nearly 1.5 falls per year, compared to less than one fall per year for those with the highest rate.
“Our findings suggest there could be a new strategy for preventing falls, such as daily exercise and using statins and treatments for high blood pressure, since blood pressure affects blood flow in the brain and may cause falls,” said Sorond.
The study was supported by a donation from Dr. Fatemeh Khosroshahi to the Brigham Women’s Hospital and by the National Institute on Aging.
The American Academy of Neurology has a guideline on how to identify people most at risk for falling. For more information on the guideline, visit http://www.aan.com.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.