Polypharmacy affects walking speed in older patients

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Researchers say more studies are needed to examine the effect of specific medications on overall well being.

Physicians should consider measuring walking speed during normal walking (NW) and walking while talking (WWT) in individuals taking multiple medications, to assess and identify potentially modifiable mobility risk.

That is the conclusion of the authors of a new study which suggestS an association between polypharmacy and locomotion that can only be partly explained by medical comorbidities.

For the study, researchers examined how polypharmacy affected walking by interviewing 482 people age 65 and older who were enrolled in the Central Control of Mobility in Aging study. Among the participants, 34 per cent used five or more medications during the study and 10 per cent used more than eight medications.

After accounting for chronic health problems, a history of falls and other issues, the authors found those in the polypharmacy group had a slower walking gait than those in the non-polypharmacy group. Those who took eight or more medications had slower walking speed when walking while talking.

Writing in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society , the authors said, given the link between WWT speed and falls in high-functioning older adults, polypharmacy is a useful marker for those who may be at risk.

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