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Cognitive Performance Linked to Risk of Falls in Elderly

Assessment of cognition should be part of fall risk evaluation process

TUESDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Among very elderly patients, there is an association between cognitive performance and risk of falls, according to a study in the August issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

Kaarin J. Anstey, Ph.D., of the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, and colleagues analyzed data on cognitive change among 539 people aged 70 and older who completed three cognitive tests, supplied information on history of falls over an eight-year period and completed a falls questionnaire at the end of the study period.

Individuals who showed declines in verbal ability, processing speed and immediate memory had a higher incidence of falls and risk of falls. The data were adjusted to take account of the effects of psychotropic medication, diabetes mellitus, stroke, visual acuity, grip strength and semitandem stand.

The authors concluded that the association is likely due to underlying neurological factors that cause a decline in both balance and cognition, a finding that concurs with those of other studies showing an association between mobility and cognitive skills.

"Cognitive function and cognitive decline are independent risk factors for falls, and current assessments for fall risk should be augmented with brief measures of verbal reasoning, processing speed, memory, or general cognitive function," the authors recommended.

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