As people age, we find ourselves taking more medications. They’re usually prescribed to maintain our health, for example keeping cholesterol and blood pressure at good levels. Then we reach for over-the-counter remedies to take care of minor aches or temporary stiffness.
A quick scan through the over-the-counter remedies in my own bathroom reveals that the vast majority of them cite dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and fatigue as potential side effects. All of which will undermine my ability to stay on my feet.
Some drugs affect balance most when we start taking them. For example, antihypertensives, used to lower blood pressure, increase a patient’s fall risk most in the first 14-21 days of beginning the course of medication. Some of that risk is as the body adjusts to a different level of blood pressure, but the fall risk remains high for those patients changing from one type of antihypertensive to another. The body needs time to adjust to the new drug, to process what is basically a cascade of chemical reactions that can affect everything from your appetite to your inner ear sensitivity.
And, did you know that taking more than 4 medications dramatically increases your risk of falling? As we age, medicines take longer to break down in the body, causing different reactions compared with when we were younger. Drugs that didn’t cause side effects before can suddenly begin to do so. Even vitamins and alternative supplements can have an effect on each other and should be part of a discussion with your doctor.
Sometimes a particular formula suits one patient better than another. If you experience dizziness or other discomfit, it is worth talking through alternatives with your doctor, to find a solution that manages your condition without putting you at greater risk of a fall.
And in the meantime? Be extra careful by reducing trip hazards in your environment like loose rugs and cords; always switch on a light when entering a room, even for a moment; ensure your shoes are stable and comfortable.
For a complete list of home safety tips regarding fall prevention, click here.