Hormone linked to falls in older diabetic adults

By Anthony J. Brown, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - As levels of parathyroid hormone rise, so does the risk of falls in older, well-functioning men and women with diabetes, according to findings from the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study.

Results from a number of studies have suggested that high levels of parathyroid hormone promote muscle weakness. In terms of falls, some reports have indicated that high levels of the hormone increase the risk, while others have not found this.

To investigate further, Dr. Denise K. Houston from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and co-researchers examined the impact of parathyroid hormone levels on the risk of falls in 472 relatively healthy adults with diabetes who were 70 to 79 years old.

Parathyroid hormone levels were measured at the outset and falls were assessed over the next 12 months.

Roughly 30 percent of the study subjects reported a fall, and the average level of parathyroid hormone was significantly higher in those who fell than in those who did not, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

After adjusting for age, gender, race, and other possible confounding factors, the researchers found that the risk of falling increased markedly with rising parathyroid hormone levels.

Houston and colleagues say further investigation looking why parathyroid hormone levels may impact muscle strength, physical performance and falls is needed.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, November 2008.

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