Medications are often a necessary evil. They can improve your quality of life, reduce your pain, and decrease your risk of developing life threatening emergencies. On the flip side, some medications have the potential for undesirable side effects. Let’s take a look at medications which can impact your balance and increase your risk for falls.
- Antihypertensives are medications which are used to treat high blood pressure.
- One of the primary concerns with certain blood pressure medications is orthostatic hypotension—a sudden drop in blood pressure as you rise from a lying or seated position to a standing position. This drop in blood pressure can lead to lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, and falls.
- Studies evaluating the impact of antihypertensive medications on falls have yielded mixed results. Some demonstrate only a weak association, whereas others show a significantly increased risk of falls, along with a greater chance of sustaining a serious injury during a fall.
- Diuretics are commonly used for leg swelling, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
- Long term use of these medications has been associated with a small increase in your risk of falling.
- It appears that you may be most vulnerable during the first 24 hours after starting diuretic.
- Antidepressants and neuroleptics are commonly used to manage mental illness including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
- SSRIs and TCAs are common antidepressants which can increase your risk of falling by 1.8 to 2-fold. With SSRIs, this appears to be related to impaired balance and sleep disturbance, whereas TCAs are associated with sedation, orthostatic hypotension, and abnormal heartbeats.
- Antipsychotic medications used to treat schizophrenia can increase your fall risk by 1.75-fold.
- Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety disorders and may also be used as a sleep aid in those with insomnia.
- This group of medications carries the highest risk for falls. Studies have shown that these medications increase your risk of falls leading to painful injuries by 2.2-fold, and increase the risk of hip fracture by 50-110% in the elderly.
- Long term use of benzodiazepines has also been linked to depressed mood, impaired cognition, and loss of physical function.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories are the only over-the-counter medication to make the list. These are used by 10-30% of older adults on a regular basis to treat pain and inflammation.
- Several studies have linked NSAIDs to a mildly increased risk of falls, though the reasoning behind this association is not clear.
You should discuss medication side effects with your medical provider, and make changes to your medications if needed.