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Bone. 1996 Jan;18(1 Suppl):87S-101S.

Prevention of falls in the elderly.

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  • 1Laboratory of Behavioral Sciences, Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.


The purpose of these symposium presentations was to examine the role of physical activity as a means of preventing hip fractures through the prevention of falls. Risk factor identification is necessary to develop preventive strategies. Risk factors related to physical activity and other risk factors for falls were identified. Intervention studies aimed at reducing, preventing or delaying falls were identified and discussed. A literature search from 1976-1994, identified 52 studies examining risk factors for falls, recurrent falls and/or falls resulting in injury. Nine intervention studies were identified with the primary outcome of falls. Physical activity-related risk factors for falls include limitations in general functioning, such as ambulation and mobility problems, difficulty or dependence in activities of daily living, and exposures to the risks of falling as indicated by the nature and frequency of daily activities. Impairments in gait and balance as well as neuromuscular and musculoskeletal impairments frequently underlie changes in physical activity in old age. Reduced activity level may occur as a result of these impairments, leading to further declines in physical functioning and an increased risk of falls. A relatively high level of activity in old age is also associated with risk of falls. Other risk factors for falls, such as cognitive impairment, visual deficits and medication use, may combine with physical activity-related risk factors to increase the risk of falls. Intervention studies directed at nursing home populations did not prevent falls but had other statistically and clinically significant outcomes. Studies among the community dwelling that targeted potential or current risk factors and included an exercise component reported a significant reduction in falls, prevented the onset of new disabilities and reduced baseline risk factors. Prevention of falls and subsequent injuries in the institutionalized population remains a challenge. Further development of interventions for community-dwelling elders that facilitate maintenance of physical activity without unduly increasing the risk of falls is also critical. The potential for maintenance of benefits gained from all fall interventions needs further examination.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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