Frequent Falls Seem to be Early Warning of Alzheimer’s, Cognitive Decline for Seniors
Study confirms earlier research showing movement changes older people precede cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment
July 2, 2013 – Seniors citizens – persons age 65 and older – who tend to fall more often than most may be showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, report researchers at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
Cognitively normal older adults with evidence of early brain changes typical of Alzheimer’s disease fell more often than did their peers without these brain changes, according to a report on the study reported online in Neurology.
The results of the study, led by Dr. Susan L. Stark, extend earlier research findings that movement changes precede cognitive changes in people with very early signs of Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.
The investigators studied 125 volunteers age 65 and older to determine how often they fell over the course of one year. The participants, mostly white women, recorded their falls in a calendar-journal they mailed monthly to the researchers.
Participants reported a total of 154 falls, most of which occurred while walking; the number of falls per person ranged from 0 to 12.
Participants also underwent brain imaging to detect the protein amyloid in the brain and a lumbar puncture to look for certain proteins in cerebrospinal fluid—biomarkers associated with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
After adjusting for differences in the ability to perform everyday activities, the researchers found that participants with biomarkers indicating greater risk for Alzheimer’s were more likely to fall, and to fall sooner, compared with those with less biomarker evidence.
More research is needed to better understand how falls may help predict risk for and signal onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the investigators say.