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Balance Dysfunction Common in American Adults

Condition significantly increases risk of falls, study finds

TUESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Disrupted balance as a result of vestibular dysfunction is common among American adults and is a significant contributor to the incidence of falls, according to a study published in the May 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Yuri Agrawal, M.D., and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore analyzed data on 5,086 adults aged at 40 years and above from the 2001 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to ascertain the prevalence of vestibular dysfunction, its relation to various sociodemographic characteristics, and its association with risk of falls.

Vestibular dysfunction affected 69 million Americans from 2001 to 2004, 35.4 percent of the over-40 population, the investigators found. Older age, education only up to high school, and diabetes mellitus were all associated with increased odds of vestibular dysfunction, the researchers discovered, and subjects who reported dizziness were 12 times more likely to sustain a fall than their counterparts who did not report this symptom.

"These findings suggest the importance of diagnosing and treating vestibular deficits to reduce the burden of fall-related injuries and deaths," the authors write. "Given the high prevalence of this impairment, notably among the elderly, and the extraordinary costs associated with falls (exceeding $20 billion annually), screening for vestibular dysfunction in assisted living or nursing home facilities, for example, could be a life-saving and cost-effective practice."

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