She was just walking out of church and suddenly found herself lying on the floor; both she and everyone else trying to figure out what happened. Her blood pressure had ‘bottomed out.’ . . .She had planned & carefully executed her recent weight loss program but hadn’t thought to check in with her doctor about adjusting her medications afterward. Her blood pressure med was now unnecessary, they later determined. Had a review been done, she likely could have averted the broken hip and resultant surgery. At 85, this ordeal undoubtedly would’ve been far worse, were she not someone who ate well and exercised all her life. In fact, her hip was able to be surgically repaired without the use of an artificial hip. This resulted in far less down-time. Now, about 8 months later, she is beginning to practice walking without a cane; at least, at home.
One quarter (25%) of those over 65 living in the U.S. will fall this year. My client’s results could’ve been far worse; every 19 minutes a senior dies as the result of a fall. The vast majority of the time, medications are a major contributing factor.
Loss of balance, blood pressure and blood sugar issues are just 3 reasons why seniors have increased tendency to fall. Medications play an integral role.
Medications to control blood pressure and blood sugar keep those parameters within very narrow ranges that may not allow the body to respond appropriately to the situation at hand such as what happened to my client. Addressing these issues through diet & lifestyle changes can frequently allow one to work with their doctor to decrease or eliminate the meds altogether. Thus eliminating a major contributor to falls. I can offer assistance and coaching for this.
But blood pressure and blood sugar meds are only a very small fraction of drugs that affect seniors adversely. Most affect balance and mental clarity more directly and can contribute to both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The problem is so pervasive that there are well-written & documented criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of medication in seniors and getting them on less dangerous drugs, if your doctor uses them.
The Beers’ Criteria is not about alcohol-containing drinks made from hops! Dr. Beers was a gerontologist who put together an extensive list of drugs known to contribute to problems in the elderly. The list involves entire classes of drugs that can be problematic in the elderly. Reasons can go far beyond balance and mental clarity issues (some drugs cannot be metabolized as readily due to impairment in kidney function, for example, that can be quite common in older people.) However, many classes of drugs are on the list primarily because of balance issues. Many also contribute to dementia.
Are you taking sleeping pills? Most are on the list. Sedating anti-histamines, like Benadryl? On the list. (many people take these before bed thinking they are safer than sleeping pills.) What about anti-anxiety meds, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics or PM versions of over-the-counter pain relievers? Also on the list. Drug to address asthma, nerve pain (especially shingles), over-active bladder, diarrhea, nausea and itching; again; on the list. All these drugs affect balance, sometimes for days after the effect of the medication has worn off. Many also affect mental clarity and contribute to dementia & Alzheimer’s.
In addition to this list; there is also another set of criteria that is more in depth called the STOPP/START criteria. STOPP is: Screening Tool for Older People’s Potentially inappropriate meds. START is Screening Tool to Alert to Right Treatments. The ‘right treatments’ here are safer drug choices; not lifestyle changes. Again, many conditions can be addressed through diet and lifestyle changes thus allowing people to get off the medication and frequently reversing the condition.
Were I someone that was on ANY medication (OTC or prescription) I would check in with my doctor to find out (1) Do any of my meds appear on the list? (2) If so, is there a safer medication we can look at instead? You might also decide to make lifestyle and diet changes that could result in you no longer needing medication. Again; I’m available to help teach you about such options.
Note: The above is intended only as education. It is not to be misconstrued as medical recommendations. Always check with a medical practitioner before stopping your medication.