An interesting study out of Tel Aviv has found that the drug used to treat ADHD, methylphenidate (the generic name for Ritalin) decreases the risk of falls in seniors. Some (the study doesn’t site the source of this statistic) estimate that approximately 50% of seniors die within a year of breaking a hip. This is because they move around less, both from pain and a fear of falling. Immobility creates all sorts of problems like poor venous return, which can lead to blood clots and bed sores that can become infected.
In a double blind design, after assessing a risk for falls in a group of seniors, half were given methylphenidate and half were given a placebo. Prof. Jeffrey M. Hausdorff, a researcher at Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University found that seniors on methylphenidate moved with more ease than seniors given the placebo because the drug improves the cognitive ability that naturally occurs with aging. It was once thought that walking was an automatic, simple motor task, but we now understand that there is a significant cognitive component as well. Methylphenidate has been found to decrease the risk of falls in Parkinson’s patients, although further study in this area is needed.
Barring any advances in drug technology, seniors who remain active, both physically and mentally have higher cognitive functioning and better physical fitness, leading to a decreased risk of falls.
The original press release can be found at American Friends Tel Aviv University.