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Falls may indicate risk of Alzheimer's disease

July 5, 2013

An estimated one-third of adults 65 and older experience a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidents can take a significant toll on independent living, but a new study suggests they could also be indicative of cognitive issues. The findings, published in the journal Neurology, point to falls as a possible early sign of Alzheimer's disease and other similar conditions. 

Researchers at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University studied 125 volunteers who were 65 and older and asked them to track whether they experienced a fall over a one-year period. Additionally, study leaders performed brain scans and lumbar punctures to look for proteins most commonly associated with Alzheimer's. They found that subjects who reported the most falls wore more likely to have these biomarkers.

There are some steps seniors can take to reduce their risk of falling and developing Alzheimer's. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has been shown to lower the risk of mild cognitive impairment, which is often cited as a precursor to Alzheimer's. Additionally, regular exercise can help strengthen muscles, improve balance and gait and reduce the risk of falling, the CDC notes.