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Twin Study Suggests Genetic Link to Fall Risk in Elderly

However, no association seen with injury-causing falls rather than non-injury-causing falls

FRIDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic factors may play a role in whether or not older women are susceptible to falls, according to a study in twins published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Satu Pajala, M.Sc., of the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, and colleagues conducted a prospective twin cohort study of 99 monozygotic and 114 dizygotic female twin pairs aged 63 to 76 from the Finnish Twin Cohort study. Falls were recorded on a calendar and verified by telephone interview.

During the study period there were 434 falls, of which 188 caused injury; 91 participants recorded more than one fall. For at least one fall, the monozygotic twins casewise concordance was 0.61, compared to 0.49 for the dizygotic twins. For at least one injurious fall the casewise concordance was 0.38 for the monozygotic twins and 0.33 for the dizygotic twins; for recurrent falls the concordance was 0.43 for the monozygotic twins and 0.36 for the dizygotic twins.

The authors conclude that familial influence accounts for 30 percent of susceptibility to at least one fall, and 40 percent to recurrent falls. However, genetic factors appear to play no role in injurious falls.

At the individual level, genetic factors are hard to determine, the authors conclude. "In clinical practice, modification of environmental and behavioral factors remains an important approach to fall prevention," they write.

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