Executive function predicts risk of falls in older adults without balance impairment

Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, CR-131, Portland, OR 97239 USA.
BMC Geriatrics (Impact Factor: 1.68). 11/2011; 11(1):74. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2318-11-74
Source: PubMed


Executive dysfunction has previously been found to be a risk factor for falls. The aim of this study is to investigate the association between executive dysfunction and risk of falling and to determine if this association is independent of balance.
Participants were 188 community-dwelling individuals aged 65 and older. All participants underwent baseline and annual evaluations with review of health history, standardized neurologic examination, neuropsychological testing, and qualitative and quantitative assessment of motor function. Falls were recorded prospectively using weekly online health forms.
During 13 months of follow-up, there were 65 of 188 participants (34.6%) who reported at least one fall. Univariate analysis showed that fallers were more likely to have lower baseline scores in executive function than non-fallers (p = 0.03). Among participants without balance impairment we found that higher executive function z-scores were associated with lower fall counts (p = 0.03) after adjustment for age, sex, health status and prior history of falls using negative binomial regression models. This relationship was not present among participants with poor balance.
Lower scores on executive function tests are a risk factor for falls in participants with minimal balance impairment. However, this effect is attenuated in individuals with poor balance where physical or more direct motor systems factors may play a greater role in fall risk.

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    • "the DT , but not single - task performance ( Killane et al . , 2014 ) . Executive function and attention ( but not visual - spatial , memory or global cognition ) have also been shown to correlate with , and prospectively predict falls in undiagnosed older adults ( Mirelman et al . , 2012 ; see also Holtzer et al . , 2005 ; Herman et al . , 2010 ; Buracchio et al . , 2011 ) . The DT review by Al - Yahya et al . ( 2011 ) also highlighted a large problem of methodological variability in the DT literature , which has ramifications for translation to the clinical setting . Previous studies have often employed only one executive function DT , or have failed to include non - executive tasks for relative compar"
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    • "Executive deficits can be associated with falls of any kind (Muir et al., 2012). In prospective studies, fallers are more likely to have poorer baseline executive functions than non-fallers at the follow-up, which is held 13 months after cognitive assessment (Buracchio et al., 2011). It is also evident that, in healthy older adults, those with executive functions in the lowest quartile are three times as likely to fall, at a 2 year follow-up (Herman et al., 2010). "
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    • "Further, neuropsychological measures of memory have been found to be the best predictors of basic activities of daily living, and executive function measures are the best predictors of higher-level activities, such as taking care of finances (Farias, Harrell, Neuman, & Houtz, 2003). Better executive functioning has also been associated with fewer falls (Buracchio et al., 2011). Thus, improvements in these domains may improve self-sufficiency and, therefore, quality of life. "
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