Incorporating balance techniques into older-adult training programs is often a go-to method for reducing falls. Recent research suggests that a focus on improving blood pressure may also be necessary to keep older adults safe. The study was published in the May 18 issue of Neurology (2010; 74, 1627–33).
Scientists sought to determine whether impaired regulation of blood flow to the brain correlated with slower gait and more falls in older adults. Blood flow regulation is a standard measure of blood vessel function in the brain. The 419 subjects aged 65 and older were given ultrasound tests to determine brain blood flow during sit-to-stand exercises and a 4-meter walking test, and in response to varying levels of carbon dioxide. Participants and their caregivers recorded falls over 2 years.
At the end of the study, the scientists found that adults whose blood flow changed least in the tests (i.e., less blood flowed to the brain) had slower gait patterns and were more susceptible to falls. “Our findings suggest there could be a new strategy for preventing falls, such as daily exercise and treatments for high blood pressure, since blood pressure affects blood flow in the brain and may cause falls,” stated lead study author Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD.