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Rationale for Strengthening Muscle to Prevent Falls and Fractures: A Review of the Evidence

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Abstract

Falls represent a major public health problem in older people, predominantly due to the resulting injuries which lead to progressive disability, immobilization and resulting comorbidities, dependency, institutionalization, and death. Reduced muscle strength and power have been consistently identified as risk factors for falls and related injuries, and it is likely these associations result from the central role played by reduced muscle strength and power in poor balance recovery. In addition, muscle strength and power are involved with protective responses that reduce the risk of an injury if a fall occurs. Progressive resistance training (PRT) is the standard way to increase muscle strength and power, and this training forms one of the main components of fall prevention exercise interventions. However, PRT has rarely been implemented in routine practice due to multiple challenges inherent to frail older people. The ongoing development of drugs expected to increase muscle power offers a new opportunity to reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. The intent here is not to replace exercise training with drugs but rather to offer a pharmacologic alternative when exercise is not possible or contraindicated. The target population would be those most likely to benefit from this mechanism of action, i.e., weak older people without major causes for falls independent of muscle weakness. Provided such a tailored strategy was followed, a muscle anabolic may address this major unmet need.

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The authors would like to thank Kathryn Krueger for critical review of the manuscript.

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Olivier Benichou is full time employee, and owns stocks, of Eli Lilly and company. Stephen R. Lord reports consulting fees from Eli Lilly, outside the submitted work.

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Benichou, O., Lord, S.R. Rationale for Strengthening Muscle to Prevent Falls and Fractures: A Review of the Evidence. Calcif Tissue Int 98, 531–545 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00223-016-0107-9

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