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Medications and Fall Prevention

Falls are the number-one cause of injury and death for older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Side effects from your medication therapy, including feeling dizzy, weak, or sleepy could increase the risk of a fall. If you or a loved one has had a recent fall, or is experiencing these types of side effects, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider to conduct a complete medication review. Simple changes to your medications may help to decrease your risk of falling.

Why do some medications increase your risk of falling?
Some medications, such as those for high blood pressure or allergies, can cause you to feel lightheaded, dizzy, tired, weak, or experience blurry vision. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you feel any of these symptoms because you may be at an increased risk a fall.

Who is at risk?
While everyone is at risk for a fall, the risk increases as you get older. Contributing factors among older individuals include reduced muscle strength, increased inactivity, and chronic health conditions. Some medications may also increase this risk.

What medications may increase your chance of falling?
Many types of medications can increase your risk for falls, including the following:

  • Heart and blood pressure medications
  • Sleep, depression, memory, and anxiety medications
  • Pain medications
  • Muscle relaxant medications
  • Diabetes medications
  • Allergy, cough, and cold medications

How can you reduce risk of falls if you must take certain medications?

  • Tell your pharmacist or other healthcare provider if you’ve had a recent fall.
  • Ask your pharmacist to review your medications to see if any might make you feel dizzy or sleepy.
  • If possible, talk with your doctor of pharmacist about taking the lowest dose necessary to treat your condition.
  • Avoid taking diuretics (water pills) close to bedtime to reduce the need to get up during the night to use the bathroom.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when taking medications.
  • Avoid standing up too quickly.
  • Participate in exercise programs that improve your balance and strengthen your legs.

For more information about medication use and the risk of falls, visit the following sites:

By Amber Zaniewski, Pharm.D., BCCCP, BCPS, Manager of Education and Training, Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT