Falls Are Linked with Chronic Disease

DECEMBER 01, 2003

    Chronic disease is likely responsible for falls in elderly women, according to the results of a study recently published in the British Medical Journal. Older women with chronic conditions such as arthritis or depression are at greater risk of falling, and these conditions may account for about a third of falls in the senior population, according to the study authors. Other factors that contribute to falls include peripheral neuropathy, vertigo, inner ear disorders, and visual disturbances. Also, many medications cause dizziness or low blood pressure, but the diseases rather than the medications treating them seem to be implicated, said a researcher.

    For the study, investigators asked 4050 British women between the ages of 60 and 70 how many times they had fallen during the past year and whether medical attention had been received for these falls. Also, they collected data on different chronic diseases with which the participants had been diagnosed, and they took a complete drug history. Approximately 75% of the women had been diagnosed with at least 1 chronic disease, and a little over 70% were taking at least 1 medication.

    Of all the falls in the elderly, as stated above, about a third were the result of at least 1 chronic disease. The risk of falling was higher if an individual had circulatory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, or arthritis. Among drug classes, only sedatives and antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of falling. In total, 2% to 5% of all falls happened in people who were taking those drugs.



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