According to research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention one in three Americans age 65 and older fall. Recent findings by experts at the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, found that Ritalin improves cognitive impairments in seniors, which may greatly contribute to a decrease in falls.
The findings may be a step into the treatment of falls within the senior population, but Prof. Jeffrey M. Hausdorff, of Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University isn’t counting chickens before they hatch. “While the notion of treating fall risk with a pill is an intriguing concept it is not likely to be a silver bullet solution, and it is still too early to recommend Ritalin on a wide scale basis,” he said.
In 2005, the CDC analyzed 16,000 deaths in the elderly population in which unintentional falls were the fundamental cause of death making it among the top ten leading causes of death in senior citizens, a statistic that holds true today.
The recent findings by Hausdorff and colleagues as reported in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveal methylphenidate or Ritalin as being helpful in enabling seniors to walk with a more controlled step and perform better on a standard test that measures fall risk.
In the study, 26 seniors were given one dose of Ritalin, asked to stand up from a chair, walk a normal pace for ten feet, turn around, walk back and sit down.
Researchers kept a tally of the time it took each person wherein the greater the time, the greater the fall risk. As a result, Hausdorff revealed that the elders who took a dose of Ritalin performed the test quicker and were less volatile in pace and step.
The incorporation of Ritalin as an aid for reduction of falling in seniors has never been studied before. Falls can be associated with an array of cognitive diseases such as gait or balance problems, dementia, Parkinson's disease, a history of stroke, weakness or nerve disorders in legs, impaired vision or who elders who use certain medications. The methylphenidate drug may help through its function as a stimulant to the central nervous system.
Hausdorff, who views walking as a largely underestimated cognitive associated activity, encapsulates on his research involving a drug with affects that are less potent than amphetamines and more potent than caffeine. “We've taken this idea a step further and shown that you can capitalize on this dependence on cognitive function and use it to reduce the risk of falls.”
With effects said to be similar to that of cocaine, Ritalin activates the brain stem arousal system and cortex by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Typically, it is utilized in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder associated with abnormally high amounts of hyperactivity or inattention than others.