Getting old isn't just about body aches and pains. As we get older, our risk of falling greatly increases. Old bones don't heal like young ones, and for senior citizens, falls are a leading cause of death.
But researchers at Tel Aviv University provide hopeful news from an unexpected source. Ritalin, used for managing Attention Deficit Disorder in hyperactive children, may have therapeutic benefits for seniors too. Older people who take methylphenidate (the generic name for Ritalin) may improve their cognitive abilities and their gait, cutting the risk for serious falls. This surprising finding was made by Prof. Jeffrey M. Hausdorff, a lecturer at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and his colleagues, and reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
TAU's researchers are the first to investigate the power of Ritalin to prevent falling in the elderly. After only one dose of Ritalin, seniors walked with a steadier gait and performed better on a standard screening test for fall risk, Prof. Hausdorff found.
"Our study suggests that it may be possible to reduce the risk of falls in older adults by treating cognitive deficits associated with aging and disease," Prof. Hausdorff said. "This is consistent with a growing body of literature which has demonstrated that walking is not a simple, automated task, as it was once believed," he explains. "We've taken this idea a step further and shown that you can capitalize on this dependence on cognitive function and use it to reduce the risk of falls."
Sidestepping a Fatal Fall
Knowing how to improve cognitive functioning could lead to fewer falls ― and fewer related deaths ― among America's senior population. "Some have estimated that more than 50 percent of seniors who break a hip from a fall will die within the year," says Prof. Hausdorff. This is partly due to a vicious cycle fueled by a fear of falling and subse
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University