Falls in elderly linked to high blood pressure and blood flow in
24 May 2010
Falls in elderly people are higher in those with high blood
pressure and an inability of the brain blood supply to respond
adequately to changing conditions, according to a study published in the
It shows that treatment for high blood pressure and adequate
exercise for the elderly could be important factors in preventing
falls among the elderly and reducing the admissions to emergency
departments and hospital wards.
Each year in the US alone, unintentional falls account for more than
16,000 deaths and 1.8 million emergency room visits. A situation
repeated in other developed countries where the high cost of care
for the elderly is becoming an increasing burden on the health and
For the study, researchers followed 419 people age 65 or older.
Ultrasound tests were used to measure brain blood flow response to
carbon dioxide levels, a standard test of blood vessel function in
the brain. Walking speed was measured by a four-meter walking test.
The seniors and their caregivers reported any falls that occurred
over two years.
The study found that the 20% of people who had the smallest blood
flow changes in the brain were at a 70% higher risk of falling
compared to the 20% of people who had the largest blood flow changes
in the brain. Those with the slowest rate had an average of nearly
1.5 falls per year, compared to less than one fall per year for
those with the highest rate.
“At age 60, 85% of people have a normal walking ability. However,
by age 85, only 18% of seniors can walk normally,” said study author
Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, with Brigham and Women’s Hospital,
Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research and Harvard Medical
School in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Our findings suggest there could be a new strategy for
preventing falls, such as daily exercise and treatments for high
blood pressure, since blood pressure affects blood flow in the brain
and may cause falls,” said Sorond.
The American Academy of Neurology has a guideline on how to
identify people most at risk for falling. For more information on
the guideline, visit www.aan.com