New findings presented at the Alzheimer's Association's annual international conference detail a supposed link to falls in the elderly and the development of Alzheimer's disease. According to USA Today, older adults who showed early signs of the condition were twice as much at risk to suffer a fall.
The research, led in part by Susan Stark, an assistant professor of occupational therapy and neurology, measured the fall rates of 125 individuals over the course of eight months. What they found was that some older individuals, who show no memory problems but whose brain scans showed the presence of amyloid (an early indicator of Alzheimer's), were more likely to fall. Specifically, 48 people reported at least one fall, and those who presented with amyloid had a much greater risk.
The study has the potential to be an important piece in the fight against Alzheimer's as it gives doctors perhaps their earliest indicator of the disease yet. Additionally, since memory problems are often not the first sign that Alzheimer's is developing, a new way to be on the lookout can be helpful.
"The fall is due to some change that's disease-related," says William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer's Association, told the publication. "We talk about memory, but that's not the presenting problem for everybody. For a pretty big size group it's spatial orientation."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and about 5.4 million Americans are currently living with the condition. Without a cure, the disease may play an even larger role in the years to come, as some estimates put the figure at 16 million by 2050.