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Reducing Fall Risk for MS Patients

Increasing vitamin D levels could be the answer

AwardA new study produced by Cleveland State University has identified a potential link between lower levels of vitamin D and a higher risk for falls in patients with multiple sclerosis. The research could help improve treatment and reduce injuries caused by lack of balance, which is a key problem for individuals suffering from the disease. The results were presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of Rehabilitation in Multiple Sclerosis last month in Amsterdam.

“MS patients suffer from impaired balance and muscle control which makes walking, standing and even sitting difficult and leads to increased risk of falls and related injuries,” notes Megan Landean, who conducted the research as part of her master’s thesis in exercise science at CSU. “Lower vitamin D levels are common in MS patients so we wanted to assess how this could be impacting balance control. The results suggest a substantial link between the two and could lead to better treatment and a better quality of life for these individuals.”

Landean, in collaboration with her faculty advisor Dr. Douglas Wajda, studied 18 MS patients and compared their Physiological Profile Assessment, which measures fall risk, and vitamin D levels. Subjects who were classified as fallers, based on their PPA score, had lower vitamin D levels when compared to non-fallers, while also being below the recommended Vitamin D level for their age and body type. It should also be noted that many of the patients were already on Vitamin D supplements but still experienced below average levels and higher PPA.

Moving forward, Landean and Wajda hope to conduct additional studies with larger patient groups and variable testing times that could account for seasonal changes in Vitamin D levels. They also hope to disseminate the results to other researchers who could use the data to assist in the development of treatments designed to address vitamin D deficiency in MS patients.

Landean conducted her research through CSU’s Human Performance Laboratory in partnership with Case Western Reserve University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Buckeye Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A native of Orono, Maine, Landean graduated from CSU in 2017, currently serves as an adjunct professor in the University’s College of Education and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in exercise science with a focus on multiple sclerosis.

“My aunt was diagnosed with MS when I was in elementary school, and I was saddened with how the disease took its course and became determined to find out why,” Landean says. “I decided to focus on MS research to find better ways of treating the disease and reducing the negative impact it has on patients and family members. CSU has provided the perfect environment to make this dream a reality and I am looking forward to continuing my efforts in a doctoral program and beyond.”