Learning about the Impact of Multiple Symptoms in Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

“Symptoms” is the medical term for any sign of a health problem, even if that sign doesn’t help your healthcare provider diagnose a specific illness. Symptoms, such as feeling tired or rundown (also called fatigue), are among the leading causes of disability for older adults.

Sometimes symptoms are directly caused by illness—for example, an aching chest can be a symptom associated with a heart attack. But often, symptoms have multiple causes. For example, fatigue can be a common symptom when you have conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, depression, and heart failure.

What’s more, older adults often experience more than one symptom at a time, which can make each symptom feel worse.

Up until now, we haven’t had much information about how symptoms that occur at the same time affect an older adult’s ability to function. To learn more, a team of researchers recently examined information from a large study of older adults, the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), which included more than 7,500 participants aged 65 and older. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

For Older Women, Taking High Blood Pressure Medication May Not Raise Risk for Falls

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is the medical term for when the force of blood against your blood vessel walls is too high. We know that using medication to lower high blood pressure can prevent heart attacks and strokes. But healthcare professionals often worry that prescriptions for lowering high blood pressure can sometimes lower it too much. This can put you at risk for becoming dizzy and falling.

Falls are a serious problem in older adults. In 2014, falls caused 2.8 million emergency room visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 27,000 deaths, and cost Medicare an estimated $31.3 billion.

Although some healthcare experts suspect that taking high blood pressure medication over time is linked to falls and fractures, very little research supports that belief. In fact, at least two major studies examining blood pressure reduction did not find an increased risk for falls among people taking medication to reduce high blood pressure. Other studies have not shown an increase in fracture risk for people taking medication for high blood pressure—in fact, some studies suggest that high blood pressure medicines may actually reduce the risk for fractures.

Researchers decided to learn more about the links between falls, high blood pressure, and high blood pressure medication in older women. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading