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Tai Chi Cuts Falls in Stroke Survivors
Tai Chi, the ancient meditative Chinese exercise practice, has been found to reduce falls among stroke survivors by helping them maintain balance and make progress in their recovery.
The findings, presented by University of Arizona researchers at the American Stroke Association's international conference this week, suggest Tai Chi could provide a simple, effective, and inexpensive complement to conventional stroke rehabilitation and recovery programs.

"Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge," said lead researcher Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, an assistant professor at the University’s College of Nursing in Tucson. "Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls. Tai Chi is readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively inexpensive."

Stroke survivors are seven times more likely to suffer a fall than healthy adults, Taylor-Piliae noted. Such falls can cause fractures, decrease mobility, and increase fears that lead to social isolation or dependence.

To test the effectiveness of Tai Chi in preventing debilitating falls, the researchers recruited a group of Tucson-area stroke survivors — with an average age of 70 years old — to learn the martial arts practice, which involves slow dance-like movements, mental concentration, and relaxed breathing.

Among the participants, 30 practiced Tai Chi, 28 were given standard care, and 31 participated in the SilverSneakers exercise program. The Tai Chi and Silver Sneakers groups took part in a one-hour exercise class three times each week for 12 weeks. The standard care group received a weekly phone call and written material about physical activity.

During the study, 34 falls were reported in participants' homes. Just five of the seniors participating in the Tai Chi group experienced falls — one third as many as those in the other groups (15 falls were reported among standard care recipients; 14 falls in the Silver Sneakers group).

"The main physical benefits of Tai Chi are better balance, improved strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance," Taylor-Piliae said. "Psycho-social benefits include less depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life."

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You can learn more about Strokes and Fall Prevention with Pedagogy’s online continuing education courses: Stroke: An Introduction and Stroke Management: Advanced. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Few conditions can occur as rapidly and with as devastating consequences as stroke. Data from the American Stroke Association (ASA) indicate that over 700,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. Immediate emergency treatment is critical to surviving a stroke with the least amount of damage to the brain and the ability to function. Every stroke or transient ischemic attack must be treated as a life-threatening emergency. Thus, it is important that all healthcare providers be educated on the early identification of stroke symptoms, emergency care options, and prevention of recurrent stroke. At least 80% of the Emergency Department staff is required to have knowledge of the stroke pathophysiology, presentation, assessment, diagnosis and treatment including thrombolytic therapy and nurses on non-stroke units, where stroke patients are not routinely cared for, and ancillary staff should receive education related to recognition of stroke signs and symptoms and activation of the organization’s emergency response processes. These courses would be excellent for all healthcare providers, and assist hospitals seeking both initial and renewal of primary stroke center certification.

For a comprehensive fall management plan we also suggest the online education course Managing Falls In the Nursing Home: Who Why and What Next?. Every day, in nursing homes located throughout the United States, hundreds of residents will experience one or more falls. Are some of these residents individuals that you provide care for on a daily basis? The answer is probably yes. Prevention of falls, whether causing injury or not, is a key safety issue in nursing homes. This comprehensive course provides 4 contact hours of CE.

To learn more about all of these online courses, click on the course titles. Also please be sure and visit our resources section for helpful tools in the prevention of falls.
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