Blood Pressure Meds May Increase Risk of Elderly Falls: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that elderly patients who take blood pressure medications may face a higher risk of falling than those who do not.  

Researchers from Yale School of Medicine found that individuals over the age of 70 given moderate intensity antihypertensive medications were 40% more likely to suffer a fall that resulted in serious injuries. The risk doubled if they had a previous fall injury. The findings were published on February 24 in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study used data from fall injury records gleaned from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The subjects included 4,961 community-living adults over 70 years old who had high blood pressure.

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Nursing home falls are a serious risk to the elderly. They can lead to traumatic brain injuries, joint dislocations, and fractures of the hip and other bones. The injuries are often severe enough that the victim never recovers.

High blood pressure medication is frequently prescribed to elderly patients to prevent cardiovascular problems. However, the drugs often have their own risks as well. The study found that of the 4,91 participants, more than 85% were taking some antihypertension drug, and that taking those drugs appeared to be associated with an increased risk of falling.

For those on moderately intensive antihypertensives, the risk of falling was 40% higher than those not on the drugs. For those on high-intensity antihypertensive drugs, the risk was 28% higher than those not on the drugs. When the researchers looked at patients who had previous fall injuries on record, they found that those given moderate and high-intensity antihypertensives had more than twice the risk of falling than their peers who had histories of falling but did not take the drugs.

“Antihypertensive medications were associated with an increased risk of serious fall injuries, particularly among those with previous fall injuries,” the researchers determined. “The potential harms vs benefits of antihypertensive medications should be weighed in deciding to continue treatment with antihypertensive medications in older adults with multiple chronic conditions.”


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