Music-based multitasking exercise program helps improve gait and balance in the elderly

November 24, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING, Featured

Uncertainty of gait, impaired mobility and loss of balance. These are just a few of the physical downsides of aging. All of these lead to high prevalence of falls and injuries in the elderly. And falls lead to bone fractures that even worsen mobility impairment and overall quality of life.

Researchers at the University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine of Geneva in Switzerland report that a special exercise might help senior citizens overcome these physical problems and improve their quality of life. According to the study authors:

“Each year, one-third of the population 65 years and older experiences at least one fall, and half of those fall repeatedly. Exercise can counteract key risk factors for falls, such as poor balance, and consequently reduce risk of falling in elderly community-dwelling individuals.”

They are recommending a “music-based multitask exercise program” which they have tried out in elderly community dwellers. The exercise is especially geared towards improving gait since most falls happen during walking. The program consisted of:

Two groups of community-dwelling elderly people were assigned to different exercise interventions were compared. One group was assigned to the normal exercise activities (control) and the other to the music-based multitask exercise program for 6 months. During the next 6 months, the groups switched activities.

The result showed that:

  • Improvements in balance and functional tests were more pronounced in the multitasking group vs. the control group.
  • Walking speed increased in the multitasking group.
  • Stride length increased and stride time variability decrease in the multitasking group.
  • The benefits of the multitasking program persisted beyond the first 6 months, even after the interventions were switched.

This study authors concluded

“…that participation in music-based multitask exercise classes once a week over a 6-month period can improve gait performance under single and cognitive-motor, dual-task conditions, as well as improve balance, and reduce both the rate of falls and the risk of falling in at-risk elderly community-dwelling adults. Our findings suggest that this program may be useful for fall prevention and rehabilitation in community-based setting such as senior centers.”

The link between heart failure and bone fractures

November 6, 2008 by  

Depression, poor quality of life, and now, increased risk for bone fractures. Is there no end to the problems facing heart failure patients? Unfortunately, a study by Canadian researchers found a link between heart failure and incidence of bone fractures.

“Patients who are newly diagnosed with heart failure in the emergency department are at least four times as likely to suffer serious bone fractures over the next year compared with patients presenting to the emergency department with other CV disorders.”

The analysis was based on hospital data from over 16,000 patients. 2041 of these patients were just newly diagnosed with heart failure. The remaining 14,253 had other cardiovascular conditions. The incidence of any orthopedic bone fracture among heart failure patients was more than 4 times higher (4.6% vs. 1%) than those without heart failure. The figures did not significantly change when corrected for age, sex, and medications. Of all types of fractures, hip fractures are the most common with more than 6% higher risk among heart failure patients. This is especially disturbing because hip fractures are difficult to heal, cause prolonged disability and increase the risk for thrombosis and lung infections.

The mechanism behind the heart failure – bone fracture link is not clear and requires bigger and more in-depth studies. A possible explanation might be the fact that long term heart failure can cause secondary parathyroidism. Parathyroidism is a condition wherein the parathyroid glands are enlarged. The glands are responsible for controlling the breakdown of calcium in the body. Dysfunction of the parathyroid glands can cause bone loss and high levels of blood calcium. Other factors which can further weaken the bones may be poor nutrition and lack of exercise among elderly depressed heart failure patients.

Heart failure is a chronic disease that worsens over time until the heart completes loses the capacity to pump. According to the American Heart Association, “more than 5 million Americans are living with heart failure, and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.” According to the study, heart failure is also a leading cause of hospitalizations and mortality in Canada. It occurs in 2.2% of the general population and 8.4% in adults older than 75.

The results of the study also highlight a possible link between heart failure and osteoporosis. The incidence of osteoporosis is about 25% in females and 12% in males among adults 50 years old and above.

The study continues to say that

heart failure and osteoporosis also share common risk factors such as older age, female sex, smoking and type-2 diabetes.

However, with the proper preventive measures, such as lifestyle changes and knowing the early signs, heart failure need not be a death sentence.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.