Exploring the Possible Ties Between Blood Pressure Medications and Fall Risk

February 25, 2016
High blood pressure is a very serious condition that can lead to severe illness or even death. But did you know the same medication you may be using to treat this condition could also increase the risk of a dangerous fall? Certain high blood pressure medicine can lead to falls, according to a New York Times article titled “Are Blood Pressure Drugs Worth the Falls?” Reporter Paula Span says that more than 70 percent of those over age 70 deal with high blood pressure. In a study looking at a national sample of almost 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries with high blood pressure, Span writes that more than 85 percent were taking at least one the following drugs: diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and a doozy of a pronunciation, renin-angiotensin system blockers. They took an excess of the drugs because randomized clinical trials have shown that these drugs reduce heart failure, heart attacks and stroke without scary side effects. Contrary to earlier conclusions from experts, who followed those 5,000 older people, age 80 on average, with hypertension for up to three years, results are alarming. The risk of serious fall injuries - fractured bones, brain injuries or dislocated joints - was significantly higher among those who took anti-hypertensives than among those who didn’t. Over the three-year follow-up, 9 percent of the subjects were badly hurt by falls. “The outcomes are just as serious as the strokes and heart attacks for which we give these medications,” said said Dr. Mary Tinetti, chief of geriatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, and lead author of the study. “Serious fall injuries are as likely to lead to death or lasting functional disability.” The people that take the study are generally healthier than older adults, and people with certain illnesses are kept out of these studies. More than half of the people in the study group were classified as moderate users of anti-hypertensives based on the number and doses of the drugs they took. In that category, serious fall injuries were 40 percent higher than among people who didn’t take anti-hypertensives. For more information about the ties between medication and fall risk, check out this video featuring BrightStar Care Chief Clinical Quality Officer Sharon Roth Maguire: