As we age, we’re often prescribed one medication after another to combat chronic medical problems or manage drug side effects. But normal changes that accompany aging coupled with adverse drug reactions land as much as 12% of seniors in the hospital. Taking as little as four medications can increase your risk of falling, and so can certain medications. We’ll go over what these medications are and what you can do to stay on your feet.
7 Medications to Watch Out for
Here are seven of the most common types of medications that many seniors take and that are likely to increase the risk of falls. If you take one or more of these medications with a number of other ones, you also likely have a greater risk.
Common antiepileptic drugs like gabapentin (Neurontin) and phenobarbital (Solfoton) can lead to falls because they can cause dizziness, lightheadedness and impaired balance.
Many antidepressants lead to low sodium levels, which can cause dizziness, lightheadedness and poor balance. Moreover, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like amoxapine, desipramine (Norpramin), and imipramine (Tofranil) cause side effects like delirium, confusion, and cognitive impairment. Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), and fluoxetine (Prozac) may cause blood pressure to lower or affect your motor skills.
Older antipsychotic drugs like chlorpromazine (Thorazine, Largactil, and more) are also a factor in increasing a senior’s risk of falling.
4. Benzodiazepines and Nonbenzodiazepines
These drugs are usually prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorders. Popular benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and nonbenzodiazepines include eszopliclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Abmien).
5. Beta blockers
Common beta blockers like atenolol (Tenormin), bisoprolol (Cardicor), metoprolol (Lopressor), and more can cause weakness or fatigue. They also reduce your ability to exercise, which may contribute to an increased risk of falling.
6. Muscle Relaxers
Drugs used to treat overactive bladders like oxybutynin (Ditropan) and tolterodine (Detrol) can lead to falls due to dizziness, lightheadedness and impaired balance.
Recent studies show that of the seniors admitted to a hospital because of a fall, nearly 5% of them had filled an opioid prescription within the previous two weeks, a number that was 2.4 times greater than those who hadn’t.
4 Things You Can Do to Stay on Your Feet
While the above drugs can make you more likely to fall, taking them in combination or with three or more other prescription drugs can be especially problematic because of how medications may interact with one another and how long they may stay in your system. To reduce your risk of taking a tumble, here are four tips to consider.
Tip 1: Ask for Safer Alternatives
Talk to your treating physician about safer alternatives to drugs known to make older adults more prone to falling. Some medications may be necessary, but your doctor may be able to substitute others.
Tip 2: Know Your Medications
If taking more than one medication, be aware of their combined side effects. Regularly review and discuss with your healthcare provider the medicines you’re taking, dosages, and how prescriptions interact with one another. It’s also possible that lower dosages can be just as effective.
Tip 3: Keep Your Doctor Informed
If you’ve experienced any falls, are feeling dizzy or sleepy, or notice other changes in your behavior or cognition after starting new medications, don’t be shy about calling your doctor. One of your medications may not be interacting well with another and affecting your health and balance.
Tip 4: Work on Your Balance and Strength
As you age, your muscles and bones naturally weaken. Regular physical activity can improve strength in the legs, increase coordination, and boost brain function.
Heather Lane Physical Therapy can create a custom exercise regime to reduce your chances of falling. Call (720) 507-3962 today to schedule your consultation.