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A new study has linked lower anticoagulant use to a higher rate of falls and disability in seniors with atrial fibrillation.

Most older adults with atrial fibrillation experience geriatric syndromes associated with advanced age, according to investigators from the University of California, San Francisco. In a study of almost 800 seniors with atrial fibrillation (median age of 80 years), fully 82% had one or more of these problems, including one or more falls within the past two years, impaired activities of daily living, cognitive impairment and incontinence. 

The rate of anticoagulant use decreased with each additional problem experienced by the participants. In addition, lower rates of anticoagulant use were reported in adults with activities of daily living dependency, instrumental activities of daily living dependency, and dementia, reported Sachin J. Shah M.D., MPH. The results were adjusted for ischemic stroke risk. 

Although guidelines recommend anticoagulant use for 97% of the study participants, only 65% reported using the drugs. “The high prevalence of geriatric syndromes may explain the lower-than-expected anticoagulant use in older adults,” the researchers noted.

Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.