The large majority of individuals over the age of 70 take medications to reduce their high blood pressure. A study of 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries was published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December 2014 reviewing the relationship between individuals taking high blood pressure medications and their risk of falling.
85% of the participants were on high blood pressure medication, the majority taking two or more medications. This group was followed for three years.
The study found that the risk of serious injury from a fall was significantly higher in those taking medications for high blood pressure. About 9% of the group were seriously injured in a fall. Most people are not aware of the fact that a serious fall injury in an individual over the age of 65 is considered a life-threatening condition by gerontologists.
The death rate from a hip fracture in individuals over the age of 65 ranges from 25% – 35% within one year of the fall. In addition, almost 50% of individuals over the age of 65 who suffer a hip fracture never regain complete mobility; many are placed in a long term care facility.
Dr. Tinetti, the lead researcher, made the following comment: “The outcomes are just as serious as the strokes and heart attacks for which we give these medications… Serious fall injuries are as likely to lead to death or lasting functional disability.”
In other words, physicians are treating you to prevent you from dying from one serious disease and the treatment itself results in you dying from another serious condition.
The increase in serious falls in the medicated group verses the non-medicated group ranged from 28% – 40% or more depending on the number of medications they were taking. The question the researchers began to ask was, “does the patient take a medication to reduce his risk for a heart attack or stroke but increase his risk of breaking a hip or injuring his brain?”
A portion of the participants were actually asked this question. 50% said that preventing a heart attack was more important to them and 50% said preventing a serious fall was more important. The real question that should have been asked is, “why take these medications when proper nutrition and exercise can significantly reduce the risk of both?”
More about this in upcoming articles.