Does Having Muscle Weakness and Obesity Lead to Falls for Older Women?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As our society continues to age, experts project that falls and the health complications that can come with them will also rise. In fact, about two-thirds of all hospital costs ($34 billion) are connected directly or indirectly with falls among older adults.

Falls can be especially challenging for older people who are obese and who also have sarcopenia (the medical term for a loss of muscle strength as we age). Currently, 5 percent to 13 percent of adults older than 60 have sarcopenia. Those rates may be as high as 50 percent in people 80-years-old and older.

Older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and falls. Obesity is a growing epidemic: More than one-third of adults 65-years-old and older were considered obese in 2010. Having sarcopenia and obesity, or “sarcopenic obesity,” is linked to a decline in your ability to function physically, and to an increased risk of fractures.

A team of researchers writing for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggested that it is important to identify people at risk for falls related to obesity and muscle weakness so that healthcare providers can offer appropriate solutions. Continue reading

For Older Adults, Does Eating Enough Protein Help Delay Disability?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

To live successfully and independently, older adults need to be able to manage two different levels of life skills: basic daily care and basic housekeeping activities.

Basic daily care includes feeding yourself, bathing, dressing, and going to the toilet on your own.

You also need to handle basic housekeeping activities, such as managing your finances and having the mobility to shop and participate in social activities.

If you or someone you care for has trouble performing these two types of life skills, this may bring on problems that can reduce quality of life and independence. People 85-years-old and older form the fastest-growing age group in our society and are at higher risk for becoming less able to perform these life skills. For this reason, researchers are seeking ways to help older adults stay independent for longer. Recently, a research team focused their attention on learning whether eating more protein could contribute to helping people maintain independence. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Exercise May Lessen Risk of Falling for Older Adults who have Alzheimer’s Disease and Mental Health Challenges

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a brain disease that causes changes that kill brain cells. AD is a type of dementia, which causes memory loss and problems with thinking and making decisions. People with AD and other forms of dementia have difficulties performing the daily activities others might consider routine.

Dementia takes a toll on those who live with it—and it also places a burden on caregivers. Along with problems connected to memory, language, and decision-making, dementia can cause neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, changes in mood, increased irritability, and changes in personality and behavior.  People who have AD/dementia also have twice the risk for falls compared to people without dementia. About 60 percent of older adults with dementia fall each year.

Researchers suggest that having neuropsychiatric symptoms might predict whether an older person with AD/dementia is more likely to have a fall. We also know that exercise can reduce the number of falls in older adults with dementia. However, we don’t know very much about how neuropsychiatric symptoms may increase the risk of falls, and we know even less about how exercise may reduce the risk of falls for people with dementia and neuropsychiatric symptoms. A research team decided to explore whether exercise could reduce the risk of falling among community-dwelling people with AD who also had neuropsychiatric symptoms. Continue reading

Older Adults with Strong Grip, Good Memory/Decision-Making Skills May Avoid or Delay Disability

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, we may develop certain disabilities that make it difficult to walk, climb, balance, or maintain our fine motor skills. In turn, these changes can affect our ability to perform routine, daily tasks, which can lead to a loss of independence and reduced quality of life. However, experts say that it is often possible to treat these difficulties before they lead to disability.

For example, having good muscle strength helps us maintain the ability to function well. Research suggests that a minimum level of strength is needed for good physical function. The stronger older adults are, the better able they may be to prevent future disability.

To learn more about how and whether being strong can ward off disability, a team of researchers examined information from a study called SHARE. It involved a survey of people aged 50 and older across most European Union countries and Israel every two years. This survey collected information about health, social and economic status, and participants’ social and family networks. A total of 30,434 people participated in this survey. The research team who studied the information from SHARE published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Liver Transplant Survival Rate Sees Improvement Among Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

An increasing number of older adults are diagnosed with end-stage liver disease. End-stage liver disease is a life-threatening condition in which the liver stops working normally. It can be caused by hepatitis, alcoholism, cancer, and other conditions. A liver transplant is the only treatment for end-stage liver disease.

Although older adults make up almost 24 percent of people waiting for liver transplants, they have often not been considered candidates for receiving this life-saving surgery. That’s because older adults often do poorly following liver transplant surgery. One reason for this is that older adults with liver disease often have many other health challenges which make recovery from transplant surgery more difficult.

However, researchers have recently reported successful liver transplants in older adults—even in people who are in their 80’s.

To learn more about older adults and liver transplants, a team of researchers studied information recorded by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) from 2003 to 2016. The SRTR data system includes information about all liver donors, people on liver transplant wait lists, and people who have received transplants in the United States. The team’s study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading