Treating high blood pressure in older women doesn’t increase long-term risk of falls, study shows
Study of nearly 6,000 women could have implications on how physicians care for aging adults
Jan. 7, 2019 – BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that older women who are treated for high blood pressure do not have an increased risk of falls over the long term.
It is the latest evidence to upend a long-held belief among some physicians that blood pressure treatment in elderly patients is linked to falls.
“Clinicians continually weigh the risks and benefits of certain treatments, especially in older adults who may be living with multiple health conditions,” said Karen Margolis, MD, lead author on the study and executive director of research at HealthPartners Institute. “With this information, we can more confidently say that treating blood pressure to recommended levels in older women, which significantly reduces their chance of having a stroke, is better than not treating it.”
Margolis and colleagues analyzed data of 5,971 women over the span of about a year, and had the women report monthly on whether they had any falls. About 53 percent had treated, controlled high blood pressure; nearly 12 percent had treated, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and nearly 5 percent had uncontrolled high blood pressure. About 30 percent did not have high blood pressure.
The women with treated, controlled high blood pressure had a 15 to 20 percent lower risk of a fall in the year of analysis. The women with treated, uncontrolled high blood pressure also had significantly less risk of falling. There was little variation in fall risk with different levels of blood pressure or medications.
It’s unclear why the women who had treated high blood pressure fell less. But Margolis says that women who pursue health care tend to be healthier, which could account for the decreased risk of falls.
Other research has shown that starting or changing blood pressure treatment slightly increased risk for falls over a span of about two weeks. But, that risk disappeared as time went on.
“If physicians have lingering concerns about treating blood pressure in older patients,” Margolis added, “It would be best to treat it but monitor their health closely in the first few weeks after prescribing or changing their medication.”
About HealthPartners Institute
About HealthPartners Institute HealthPartners Institute is part of HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the nation with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with members, patients and the community. HealthPartners Institute supports this mission through research, education and practice. The Institute annually conducts 400+ research studies, provides continuing medical education to 24,000 health professionals and trains 575 medical residents and fellows and 1,200 medical and advanced practice students. The Institute also supports clinical quality improvement and patient education programs. Its integration with HealthPartners’ hospitals, clinics and health plan strengthens the Institute’s ability to discover and develop evidence-based solutions and translate them into practice. Based in Minneapolis, the Institute’s work impacts care, health and well-being across the region and nation as well as internationally. For more information, visit healthpartners.com/institute