Effects of Obesity and Fall Risk on Gait and Posture of Community- Dwelling Older Adults

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Thurmon E. Lockhart Christopher W. Frames Rahul Soangra Abraham Lieberman

Abstract

Epidemiological studies link increased fall risk to obesity in older adults, but the mechanism through which obesity increases falls and fall risks is unknown. This study investigates if obesity (Body Mass Index: BMI>30 kg/m2) influenced gait and standing postural characteristics of community dwelling older adults leading to increased risk of falls. One hundred healthy older adults (age 74.0±7.6 years, range of 56-90 years) living independently in a community participated in this study. Participants’ history of falls over the previous two years was recorded, with emphasis on frequency and characteristics of falls. Participants with at least two falls in the prior year were classified as fallers. Each individual was assessed for
postural stability during quiet stance and gait stability during 10 meters walking. Fall risk parameters of postural sway (COP area, velocity, path-length) were measured utilizing a standard forceplate coupled with an accelerometer affixed at the sternum. Additionally, parameters of gait stability (walking velocity, double support time, and double support time variability) were assessed utilizing an accelerometer affixed at the
participant’s sternum. Gait and postural stability analyses indicate that obese older adults who fell have significantly altered gait pattern (longer double support time and greater variability) exhibiting a loss of automaticity in walking and, postural instability as compared to their counterparts (i.e., higher sway area and path length, and higher sway velocity) further increasing the risk of a fall given a perturbation. Body weight/BMI is a risk factor for falls in older adults as measured by gait and postural stability parameters.

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Keywords

Lyapunov Stability, Accelerometer, biomedical healthcare devices

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