Hypertension, orthostatic hypotension, and the risk of falls in a community-dwelling elderly population: the maintenance of balance, independent living, intellect, and zest in the elderly of Boston study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Mar;59(3):383-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03317.x.


Objectives: To investigate the relationships between uncontrolled and controlled hypertension, orthostatic hypotension (OH), and falls in participants of the Maintenance of Balance, Independent Living, Intellect, and Zest in the Elderly of Boston Study (N=722, mean age 78.1).

Design: Prospective population-based study.

Setting: Community.

Participants: Seven hundred twenty-two adults aged 70 and older living within a 5-mile radius of the study headquarters at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston.

Measurements: Blood pressure (BP) was measured at baseline in the supine position and after 1 and 3 minutes of standing. Systolic OH (SOH) and diastolic OH at 1 and 3 minutes were defined as a 20-mmHg decline in systolic BP and a 10-mmHg decline in diastolic BP upon standing. Hypertension was defined as BP of 140/90 mmHg or greater or receiving antihypertensive medications (controlled if BP < 140/90 mmHg and uncontrolled if ≥ 140/90 mmHg). Falls data were prospectively collected using monthly calendars. Fallers were defined as those with at least two falls within 1 year of follow-up.

Results: OH was highest in participants with uncontrolled hypertension; SOH at 1 minute was 19% in participants with uncontrolled hypertension, 5% in those with controlled hypertension, and 2% in those without hypertension (P ≤ .001)). Participants with SOH at 1 minute and uncontrolled hypertension were at greater risk of falls (hazard ratio=2.5, 95% confidence interval = 1.3-5.0) than those with uncontrolled hypertension without OH. OH by itself was not associated with falls.

Conclusion: Older adults with uncontrolled hypertension and SOH at 1 minute are at greater risk for falling within 1 year. Hypertension control, with or without OH, is not associated with greater risk of falls in older community-dwelling adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / complications*
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / epidemiology
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / physiopathology
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors