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Baltimore Using Big Data to Reduce Senior Falls

Baltimore, MD — A data surveillance system used by the City of Baltimore pinpoints precise city areas—down to specific city blocks or even addresses—where seniors have suffered slips and falls, then passes that info to community partners to address the spike in falls in a timely manner.


The program is seeing fall risks being addressed within a month (and often within a week), as opposed to 18 or more months.  Its goal is to reduce the rate of falls by 20 percent over the next decade.  Here’s how it works. 


First, Baltimore hospitals treating seniors for fall-related injuries pass data onto the Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients, or CRISP.  Data is then passed on to the city health department. 


The health department then reaches out to community groups like the Baltimore-based Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, for example.


By reaching out to such entities—which also include the city’s housing department, social-services providers and even the city’s 3-1-1 hotline—interventions can be executed, with personnel installing grab bars or railings or repairing staircases at known fall sites.


The system, which is updated automatically, is an extension of a 2016 project that began with $200,000 in grant funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  According to a recent review of the system, four pinpointed city locations accounted for 72.6 percent of all older adult falls, particularly the Hampden neighborhood.


Baltimore’s health department says that falls sent nearly 5,000 older adults in Baltimore to the emergency department in 2017, to the tune of an estimated $60 million in hospital bills.  According to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Medicare and Medicaid shoulder about 75 percent of the bill for nonfatal older adult falls.


The Baltimore initiative, which also includes public education efforts on how to prevent falls, could save $14 million in medical costs annually.


The mere act of falling down leads to tens of thousands of deaths among adults 65 and over every year in the U.S., and even more hospitalizations.   And once an older person falls, they are twice as likely to fall again, according to the CDC.  



May 30: National Senior Health and Fitness Day!

Washington, D.C. — On Wednesday, May 30, 2018, over 100,000 older adults at over 1,000 locations nationwide marked the 25th National Senior Health & Fitness Day.  Always held the last Wednesday in May, National Senior Health & Fitness Day is the nation’s largest annual health and wellness event for older adults.  Participating locations included banks, health clubs, houses of worship, hospitals, malls and shopping centers, and local park/recreation departments.


Widowed, underweight, sleepless: New dementia risk factors uncovered

Boston, MA — Some 5.7 million people in the U.S. alone live with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.  That figure is predicted to rise to 14 million by 2050. 


But now, Boston University School of Medicine researchers had a computer analyze data from the Framingham Heart Study to find dementia factors that human analysis might have missed.


The so-called machine learning software was given 1979-1983 data from the famous ongoing study, which has been following the heart and general health of its participants since 1948.


The computer analysis identified marital status of “widowed,” lower body mass index (BMI), and less sleep at midlife as risk factors for dementia.


The results were published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.


For healthy young brain, just breathe!

Dublin, Ireland — The controlled breathing of regular daily meditation has been traditionally known as a brain health booster for millennia.


But now, new research at the Institute of Neuroscience may have scientifically found why meditation and focused breathing seems to improve the brain’s focus, concentration, attention and even overall brain health and youthfulness.


The research focused on brain levels of a natural hormone called noradrenaline, which is produced by a part of the brain called the locus coerulus in response to stress.  Noradrenaline causes the heart to beat faster and the pupils of the eyes to dilate.


Specifically, the researchers studied how controlled breathing affects levels of noradrenaline in the locus coerulus.


Researchers scanned the brains and measured pupil dilations of study participants while they performed mental tasks that required great focus.  At the same time, they monitored participants’ breathing, reaction time and brain activity in the locus coerulus.


The researchers found that participants focusing better on tasks had better synchronization between breathing patterns and attention.  They also found that activity in the locus coeruleus increased as participants inhaled and decreased as they exhaled.


According to lead researcher Michael Melnychuk, too much—or too little—noradrenaline in the brain hampers focus. 


But “using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells,” helps the brain the hit the “sweet spot” of noradrenaline in which “our emotions, thinking, and memory are much clearer,” he told Medical News Today.


The study was published recently in Psychophysiology.