Every second of every day, an older adult falls. Many of these falls cause injuries, loss of independence, and in some cases, death. There are many ways that falls can be prevented.
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of injuries for people 65 and older. What are the reasons for these falls for people in this age group?
According to Johanna Dix, an occupational therapist with Franciscan Health Acute Rehabilitation Indianapolis, different factors can increase the risk of falling. “As we age, we may lose muscle tone, which may affect balance. Also, changes in our eyesight may make us less sure of our balance,” Dix said.
Medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, also can increase your risk of falling.
How Medications Affect Your Balance
According to Cara Acklin, Pharm.D., a pharmacist at Franciscan ACO, older adults can respond to medication, as a whole, more strongly than younger people. This can include a stronger effect on their balance.
“This can be due to their kidney function isn’t as good or they may not clear the medication as quickly as they were able to when they were younger,” Acklin said.
Changes in body composition, metabolism and gastrointenstinal absorption also can change how a person’s body reacts to medication.
Interactions among multiple medications can increase your risk of balance issues, particularly among seniors.
“They can have additive effects. It is much more likely that you see a person over the age of 65 taking 10 or more medications,” said Acklin.. “Any time you start taking that many medications together, it can create havoc.”
What Drugs Increase Risk of Falling?
It’s extremely common for older adults to be taking medications that have been associated with increased fall risk. There are three categories that these medications fall into.
#1: Medications that affect the brain
Health professionals often refer to drugs that impact the brain as “psychoactives.” Psychoactive medications affect brain function. Many tend to cause some sedation or drowsiness. They also can cause or worsen confusion, especially in people with memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease.
Some psychoactive medications include:
#2: Medications that affect blood pressure
These are drugs that can cause or worsen a sudden fall in blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure, or chronically low BP, can increase fall risk.
Older adults can easily experience a quick drop in blood pressure when they stand or sit up. When blood pressure drops, less blood can go to organs and muscles, increasing risk of falling. This is called postural (or orthostatic) hypotension- morning
Most medications for high blood pressure can cause or worsen postural hypotension.
Symptoms of hypotension can include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Feeling about to faint
- Passing out or falling
- Blurry or tunnel vision
- Feeling vague or muddled
- Feeling pressure across the back of your shoulders or neck
- Feeling nauseous, or hot and clammy
- Weakness or fatigue
#3: Medications that lower blood sugar
People with diabetes have a higher risk of falls compared to others of the same age. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) due to medications or other factors is associated with falls in people with diabetes.
Taking Medications That Make You Tired Or Dizzy?
“If you are taking medications and you find that you’re dizzy or sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor as soon as possible,” said Patrick Laboe, MD, orthopedic trauma surgeon with Franciscan Physician Network Orthopedic Specialists in Indianapolis. “He or she can review your prescriptions, as well as over-the-counter medications and supplements, and help you identify the issues and make suggestions.”
Particularly if you are over 65 years old, reviewing medications, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements with a healthcare provider is important.
Taking the time to review what medications and supplements you are taking can help you reduce interactions and side effects that may lead to falls. Your provider may change or stop medications or medication doses to help you better manage your symptoms, health conditions and risk of falling.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist