Falling might be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s and not just a symptom

Bryan Aldrige

July 20, 2011

Approximately, one in three adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall each year, and a new study suggests that falling may be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.

Falling has previously been associated with the later stages of Alzheimer's disease. However, scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, have found new evidence, which shows that people who display brain changes that correlate with the development of dementia are more likely to fall than those who do not.

"If you meet these people on the street, they appear healthy and have no obvious cognitive problems," said Susan Stark, the lead researcher. "But they have changes in their brain that look similar to Alzheimer's disease, and they have twice the typical annual rate of falls for their age group."

The researchers studied 119 older adults, and of those, 18 showed early signs of Alzheimer's. Roughly two thirds of these individuals fell within eight months of the study.

Older adults can get screened for signs of dementia, fall-proof their homes and purchase senior alert systems to reduce their risk of falls. If a senior is injured and cannot otherwise contact help, a personal emergency response system will get assistance.