Can Medications Increase Your Fall Risk?


Are you concerned about your fall risk? You should be. According to The National Trauma Data Bank, falls cause 61 percent of deaths in adults aged 65 and older. What can you do to reduce your risk of falling?

Here are four things that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Begin an exercise program to improve leg strength and balance.
  • Get annual eye check-ups and update your glasses.
  • Make your home safer.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines.

This post will focus on the medications.

Side Effects and Interactions between Medications

According to a national health survey, a third of 45- to 64-year-olds and two-thirds of people 65 and older take three or more prescription drugs in one month. The side effects of these drugs and the interaction between them can increase your fall risk. That’s because the side effects include blurred vision, dizziness, drowsiness, delirium, and impaired judgment. Taking many medications at the same time can worsen side effects. This is true at any age, but older adults suffer more because our bodies absorb and respond to drugs differently with age.

There are a few categories of medicines that can increase fall risk.

Medications that affect the brain

Many of these medications tend to cause some sedation or drowsiness. They can also cause or worsen confusion, especially in people with memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Anti-anxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines. This class of medication is often prescribed to help people sleep, or to help with anxiety.
  • Antipsychotics. These are commonly prescribed to control difficult behaviors in Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
  • Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).


Medications that affect blood pressure

These are drugs that can cause a sudden fall in blood pressure. A drop in BP (or chronically low BP) can increase fall risk. These medictions include alpha blockers, centrally acting antihypertensives, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), and beta blockers (including eye drops, which can lower blood pressure as a side effect).

Reminder: Older adults can easily experience a drop in blood pressure when they stand. This is called postural (or orthostatic) hypotension. So stand up slowly to reduce your fall risk.

Diabetes drugs

These include insulin, glipizide, and glyburide.

Heart drugs

These include anti-arrhythmics, nitrates and other vasodilators, and digoxin.

By trying to keep the number of medications you take to a minimum, you can reduce the side effects and the side effects that come from interaction between the medications.