Blood Pressure Drugs Raise Risk of Serious Falls

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 04:10 PM

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Blood pressure medicines taken by millions of older Americans significantly raise the risk of serious, life-threatening falls, a new study concludes.

According to a report in The New York Times, Yale School of Medicine researchers who tracked 5,000 older people with hypertension for three years found fall injuries — such as fractured bones, brain injuries, or dislocated joints — were far more common among those who took anti-hypertensives than those who didn't.

About 9 percent were badly hurt by falls, which can have a devastating effect.

"The outcomes are just as serious as the strokes and heart attacks for which we give these medications," lead researcher Mary Tinetti, M.D., chief of geriatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, told The Times. "Serious fall injuries are as likely to lead to death or lasting functional disability."

Many older Americans have high blood pressure, with than 70 percent of those over age 70 contending with the condition. A wide variety of medicines — diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, renin-angiotensin system blockers — are commonly prescribed to lower it.

Although this study did not prove that taking the drugs led to the falls, anti-hypertensive medications are logical suspects.

"They can drop people's blood pressure too much when they stand," Dr. Tinetti said. "They can make them fatigued, confused, dizzy. Those are all risk factors for falls."

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