In the recent study, Prof. Hausdorff gave Ritalin to 26 healthy seniors who resided in independent living arrangements. They were assessed for fall risk before taking a single dose of Ritalin or placebo administered in a double blind fashion. The subjects were then asked to perform the "Timed Up and Go" test, during which they were asked to stand up from a chair, walk at a normal pace for about ten feet and then turn around, walk back and sit down. The longer it takes to accomplish the task, the greater the fall risk.
Therapeutic Value for Parkinson's Patients
Those who took Ritalin performed the test quicker and had less variability in their "stride time," a common sign of instability, researchers found. Preliminary research on patients with Parkinson's disease also shows that Ritalin may help decrease the risk of falling even in the face of this common neurodegenerative disease.
While the notion of treating fall risk with a pill is "an intriguing concept," says Prof. Hausdorff, it is not likely to be a silver bullet solution, and it is still too early to recommend Ritalin on a wide scale basis. Additional studies are planned to more fully assess clinical utility, but it's likely that, for example, the drug would not be suitable for people who have certain types of heart disease.
Doctor's Orders: Get off the Couch, Strengthen Bones and the Brain
What can seniors do to prevent a potentially catastrophic fall now? "Remain active, that's been well-established," says Prof. Hausdorff. "Our findings indicate that it's also important to look at falls and relate them to one's cognitive functioning. It's important to strengthen your muscles, but seniors need to strengthen their minds as well."
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University