Many people suffer with high blood pressure and often take medication, like beta-blockers to lower blood pressure and keep it within acceptable, safe parameters. However, scientists have found that blood pressure tablets may be doing more harm than good as they increase the risk of elderly people having falls.

Scientists at Yale University discovered that the risk of dying from a fall when taking these tablets rises by 40% over 3 years. This is similar to the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke over the same period.

As we get older our blood pressure naturally gets higher and many of us will need to take medications to keep this under control stated Julie Ward Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation. This type of medication is important in preventing heart attacks and strokes. Patients may also have other health conditions which can put them more at risk of having a fall.

Falls can be catastrophic in the elderly; often causing fractures to the hip and even brain injuries. This in turn can lead to functional decline, loss of mobility and the confidence to mobilise, placement in a nursing home and even death. A sobering thought.

Many people who suffer from hypertension require several types of drugs. The treatments, which could be a mix of beta-blockers, diuretics or ace inhibitors and this cocktail of medication does not necessarily make the patient feel better as people often suffer debilitating side effects.

Common side-effects of hypertension drugs, (which lower the blood pressure) are dizziness, excessive tiredness and blurred vision. The study has shown that 9% of patients (the study followed 5000 over – 70s for 3 years) experience serious injuries from falls and 24.9% died as a result. Previous studies have shown that you would have expected a similar number to die from heart attack or stroke that they had not been treated with medication over the same period.

Following publication of this research, blood pressure guidelines in the US are currently being changed because of concerns of the risks of medicating elderly people outweigh the benefits.

It may be that more detailed discussions need to take place between doctors and their patients when considering prescribing such medication. Both the harms as well as the benefits of such medication need to be considered, particularly when the harms may be at least as serious as the diseases that the medication is designed to prevent.

More information about this research can be found at: