Is it really old age or the drugs the elderly are given? Many problems associated with ageing can be caused by drugs, as WDDTY has pointed out many times, and which has been confirmed this week by new research that demonstrates that pills for high blood pressure (hypertension) increase the risk of a fatal fall.
Antihypertensive drugs such as beta-blockers increase the risk by 40 per cent over three years, which is a similar risk profile to dying from a heart attack or stroke. Common side-effects to the drugs include dizziness, tiredness and blurred vision, all of which increase the risk of falling.
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine, who made the discovery, say the elderly are left with a tough choice: take a drug and increase the risk of a fatal fall, or don’t take the drug and run the risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
They analysed the impact of the drugs on a group of around 5,000 people aged 70 and older for three years; of these, 14 per cent weren’t taking any medication, 55 per cent were taking drugs in moderate dosages, and 31 per cent were taking a high dose.
During the three years, 446 of the group suffered serious injury from a fall and 111 of them died. Those taking medication for high blood pressure were between 30 and 40 per cent more likely to suffer a fall, and the risk doubled for those who had suffered a fall before.
Around 5 million over-70s in the UK take an antihypertensive.
(Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014; doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14764)