Nursing Home Falls and Fractures Increased When Blood Pressure Drug Treatment Began: Study

Patients with dementia face triple the risk of nursing home falls and fractures when starting blood pressure medication treatment, researchers warn.

Elderly patients who begin treatment on antihypertensive medications to lower their blood pressure face an increased risk of experiencing a nursing home fall, which could result in bone fractures, loss of mobility and a decline in health, according to the findings of a new study.

Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than one in four people over the age of 65 fall each year, with about 20% of those falls leads to a serious injury, like a broken bone or head injury.

Nearly every 20 minutes a person over the age of 65 dies from a fall. Among senior citizens and nursing home residents, falls are one of the most frequent causes of injury, and once a senior falls, they are more likely to fall again.

In a study published on April 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers looked at data from 2006 through 2019 on nearly 30,000 nursing home residents in the Veterans Health Administration, and sought to assess whether there was an association between starting residents on antihypertensive medications, and an increase in nursing home falls and fractures.

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According to the findings, residents who received a new blood pressure medication had twice the risk of suffering fractures than those who did not. In addition, those residents faced an 80% increased risk of serious falls, and a 70% increased risk of syncope, which involves symptoms like dizziness and fainting.

In addition, nursing home residents with dementia faced more than three times the risk of fractures when started on antihypertensive than their peers.

“Findings indicated that initiation of antihypertensive medication was associated with elevated risks of fractures and falls. These risks were numerically higher among residents with dementia, higher baseline blood pressures values, and no recent antihypertensive medication use,” the researchers concluded. “Caution and additional monitoring are advised when initiating antihypertensive medication in this vulnerable population.”

Antihypertensive medications come in several forms, from beta blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers and others. The researchers did not specify a particular type of blood pressure medication.

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