Wednesday, May 6, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Preventing falls can be a trip

Mary Kay, Tanvi Bhatt,

AP photo University of Illinois-Chicago physical therapy assistant professor Tanvi Bhatt, left, walks alongside Mary Kaye, 81, as she demonstrates a treadmill balance session. AP photo

By
From page A3 | September 05, 2014 |

CHICAGO (AP) — Researchers are tripping seniors on purpose, and it’s not some kind of warped practical joke.

The experiment is among techniques being studied to prevent falls, the leading cause of injury in older adults. Falls in the elderly cost $30 billion yearly to treat and can send them spiraling into poor health and disability.

Conventional efforts to prevent falls include exercises to boost strength and balance, but researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago are trying a completely different approach. It’s based on promising, preliminary results with a lab-built walkway that causes people to unexpectedly trip, as if stepping on a banana peel.

Now the same scientists are testing a similar approach with computerized treadmills. If it works, they envision specially designed treadmills in doctors’ offices, clinics and physical therapy centers for training people how to avoid falling.

Clive Pai, a physical therapy professor leading the research, calls the method a potential “vaccine against falls.”

Standard fall prevention techniques aim to improve physical condition by strengthening certain muscles and improving range of motion. And they may require dozens of sessions to be effective, Pai said. His research is focusing on building subconscious learning, and evidence so far shows it can happen surprisingly fast.

“This is all implicit learning. We don’t give any instruction. They don’t have to be motivated — they’re naturally motivated because they don’t want to be on the floor,” he said.

Pai has a $1 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging to study and develop the treadmill system, and plans to enroll 300 participants within the next five years.

The scientists demonstrated the technique recently in Pai’s lab with 81-year-old Mary Kaye, who had participated in the preliminary walkway research. Graduate students taped little sensors to Kaye’s arms and legs allow her movements to be tracked and analyzed. Then she was hooked up to a harness attached to an overhead cable to help her remain upright if needed.

First, she used the walkway, striding several paces before a student clicked the computer mouse to make a sliding walkway section move suddenly under Kaye’s feet. Kaye stumbled slightly, but kept her balance.

Pai’s preliminary research, published in June, found that 24 similar “trips” in just one walkway session taught older adults to learn to catch themselves and reduced their chances of falling outside the lab, during everyday living, by 50 percent up to a year later.

Back in the lab, Kaye next tried the treadmill, set at a steady walking pace that was occasionally interrupted by sudden brief skips. Kaye stumbled at each jolt but managed to stay afoot. Pai thinks Kaye’s training in the previous study may have helped keep her steady.

Retired from the travel industry and public relations, Kaye is fit and healthy and looks a decade younger, but said she still occasionally falls — even after the training.

“I land on my face and it’s usually quite disastrous — for my face. But I recover and I try to get through another season,” she said.

Kaye tends to trip on Chicago’s uneven sidewalks. The last time was earlier this year, when she landed on her face, splitting her lip and injuring her elbow — not bad enough to be hospitalized, but enough to scare her. Kaye threw out all her ill-fitting shoes and said she hasn’t fallen since.

Older people are at risk for falls for many reasons, including age-related muscle weakness, vision problems and medication issues including side effects and improper doses.

The National Institute of Health announced in June that it is helping sponsor a $30 million study to test mostly conventional prevention techniques that can be tailored to older adults’ individual risks and used in community settings. The government aims to enroll 6,000 adults aged 75 and up at 10 centers nationwide.

Pai’s treadmill technique will likely need several years of study to prove whether it works. But Dr. Basil Eldadah of the National Institute on Aging said Pai’s research is potentially very promising and the training technique might someday be incorporated into standard clinical care.

“We don’t want older adults to learn the hard way,” Eldadah said.

Meantime, there are steps older adults can take to reduce their risks for falling. Some from the National Institute on Aging and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

* Exercise, including walking and stretching to improve muscle strength and balance.

* Have the doctor review all medications to check for side effects, doses or drug interactions that could cause dizziness or drowsiness.

* Get yearly vision exams to make sure eyes are healthy and glasses are the proper strength.

* Reduce risks at home including clutter and poor lighting; and install handrails in tubs and showers.

* Limit intake of alcohol, which can affect balance.

* Stand up slowly: Rising too quickly can sometimes result in a sudden drop in blood pressure, causing dizziness.

* Use a cane or walker if needed for steadiness.

— Online: National Institute on Aging: http://www.nia.nih.gov

By Lindsey Tanner, AP medical writer. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

 
New chemistry building in the works at UCD

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

County supervisors receive positive report on Laura’s Law

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

 
Fix it yourself, with a little help, at Bike Forth

By Bob Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

California regulators approve unprecedented water cutbacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Bob Dunning: Squeezed by the math on conservation

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

Big Day of Giving surpasses $5 million goal

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Heidrick Ag History Center rebranded as California Agriculture Museum

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
May 11 talk focuses on clean water

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

‘From Age-ing to Sage-ing’ guides library group

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Crossing lines, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

’12 Angry Men’ will screen Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Kids get a peek at the great outdoors

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
BeerFest expands to include cider

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Pet Food Express organizes Save a Kitten fundraiser

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Origami lovers will meet at library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Breast cancer treatment update offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

 
Earth-centered author comes to Avid Reader

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

MIND Institute lecture will focus on prenatal exposure to insecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
Round up at the registers for Davis schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

 
Retirees to hear about Woodland’s shade tree campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Health care documentary will screen at meeting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Pence Gallery: We’re overflowing with gratitude

By Natalie Nelson | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Who is Ralph Hexter? Chancellor’s No. 2 fills us in

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

New book flows with good news about water

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
Injection wells endanger our aquifers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

Living with this for 30 years

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
.

Sports

Aggies go flat in 7-1 Sacramento State win at Raley

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils crush Edison to earn McClatchy rematch

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Blue Devils grind out a victory over Oak Ridge

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Davis boys dominate first playoff match

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Alliance/Legacy roundup: Local squads fare well over the weekend

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
AYSO roundup: Davis teams capture Fog Classic crowns

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Pro baseball roundup: Giants blank Pads, win fifth straight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Features

.

Arts

High school artists exhibited at Pence Gallery

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
See Christian Quintin’s paintings at Hattie Weber Museum

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble returns

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Sac Ballet presents Modern Masters on May 8-9

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Davis Youth Flute Choir tunes up for China tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B5