Harvard Heart Letter

Risk of serious falls linked to changes in blood pressure drugs

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When older people start taking a new blood pressure drug or increase the dose of their current one, they may be more prone to a serious fall over the following two weeks. That's according to a study that analyzed the health records of more than 90,000 people ages 65 or older who sustained serious injuries—including broken hips and brain dam-age—from falls.

Researchers found that the likelihood of a serious fall-related injury rose by 36% during the 15 days after the person started a new blood pressure drug. People who began taking a new class of blood pressure drug had a 16% higher risk, and those who increased the dose of their current medication had a 13% higher risk. About 15% of the injuries proved fatal within 90 days. The study appeared in the May 10, 2016, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Although the findings don't prove cause and effect, the association makes sense. Side effects from blood pressure drugs include feeling dizzy or faint after standing up, which can raise the risk of falling.

Still, there was good news: blood pressure drug changes don't seem to raise the risk of serious falls over the long term—only during the first 15 days.