Research roundup

Below are a selection of recent research studies, which we have summarised for you.

We have provided links so you can investigate further if you wish. Unfortunately some of the scientific information may only be available by subscribing to the medical journal or paying to download the article. However, your local library may be able to help you find the articles if you wish. These links are for interest, we won’t be asking questions about them in the end of course test.

The prevalence of falls may be increasing

Researchers in America studied data from the Health and Retirement Study which collected information from middle aged and older adults about falls over a 12 year period. In 1998 28% of people aged over 65 years had fallen within the past two years. However, by 2010 this had increased to 36% of people aged over 65 years. The largest increase was seen in those aged 65-69 years. The researchers looked to see if this was down to higher levels of disability, or diseases such as diabetes, but there was no link found. Article on Jama Network

Furring of the arteries in the brain increases the risk of falls

A team of Australian researchers performed MRI brain scans in 294 older people and measured how much furring of the arteries was present in their brain. Furring of the arteries happens naturally in us all, but gets worse with advancing age, and is accelerated by smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When it becomes severe it reduces the blood supply to the brain. They monitored the 294 people over 12 months and found that more severe furring of the arteries was associated with poor balance and gait. Having more severe furred arteries doubled the risk of falling. Article on AHA Journals

Step training using a dance mat may reduce the risk of falls

A dance mat is a large mat which several markers on it which senses foot position. The mat can be connected to a computer, which then shows you where to place your feet, usually in the form of a dance routine. It can be played as a game as it can sense whether you placed your feet in the correct position. A recent review of several research studies have shown that ‘Volitional Step Training’ can improve reaction time, gait, balance, brain function and also reduce falls. Article on BMJ Article on Plos One

The confusion around vitamin D continues…

Swiss researchers performed a good quality, scientifically robust study to see whether monthly doses of vitamin D reduced falls or improved physical function in 200 people aged over 70 years. They found that monthly vitamin D did not help prevent physical decline. But perhaps most surprisingly they found that higher doses of vitamin D actually increased the risk of falls. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2478897

Falls in hospitals are very common and frequently result in serious injury. A team of researchers in New Zealand modified the flooring in a hospital ward so that it was low impact / shock-absorbing. They compared injury rates between falls on the low impact flooring to falls on standard hospital flooring. Injuries and fractured bones were much less common on the low impact flooring. However, the staff found it more difficult to move beds and equipment on the shock absorbing floor. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1525861017300592?via%3Dihub (abstract only available without subscription)

Exercise: Tai Ji Quan

A large study in the US has recently reported impressive results from a study which compared falls prevention exercises, to balance exercises and Tai Ji Quan. Tai Ji Quan was the most successful exercise and reduced the number of falls the most.

What is Tai Ji Quan? http://www.taichinews.com/about-taichi. Article: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2701631

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Ageing Well: Falls

Newcastle University

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