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Older people with COPD have fall rates similar to those with neurological conditions

Older people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have a significantly increased risk of experiencing falls, latest study results suggest.

Australian researchers studied 41 people with an average age of 71 and stable COPD for a year. They found that 40% experienced falls, with more than 75% of these falling multiple times. The overall fall incidence rate was 1.17 falls per person per year.

Picture credit: SPL

Falls were monitored using calendars, and every fall recorded was followed by a telephone call within a week to obtain details about the fall. Loss of balance was the most frequent reported cause, cited in 39% of incidences.

Factors linked to an increased risk of falls included co-morbidities, taking multiple medications, having a fear of falling, and falling in the past. Smoking was also found to be a significant contributory factor, with each 10 pack-years in smoking history contributing a 20% increase in the fall incidence rate.

According to the researchers, the fall prevalence found in the study was higher than in the general older population, and is comparable to fall rates observed in people with neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, and in older people following a stroke.

Lead study author Dr Cristina Oliveira of the University of Melbourne said the findings could be useful for developing strategies to prevent falls in this patient group.

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