The Association of Cardiovascular Disorders and Falls: A Systematic Review

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016 Mar 1;17(3):193-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2015.08.022. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Objective: Cardiovascular disorders are recognized as risk factors for falls in older adults. The aim of this systematic review was to identify cardiovascular disorders that are associated with falls, thus providing angles for optimization of fall-preventive care.

Design: Systematic review.

Data sources: Medline and Embase.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: studies addressing persons aged 50 years and older that described cardiovascular risk factors for falls. Key search terms for cardiovascular abnormalities included all synonyms for the following groups: structural cardiac abnormalities, cardiac arrhythmia, blood pressure abnormalities, carotid sinus hypersensitivity (CSH), orthostatic hypotension (OH), vasovagal syncope (VVS), postprandial hypotension (PPH), arterial stiffness, heart failure, and cardiovascular disease. Quality of studies was assed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Results: Eighty-six studies were included. Of studies that used a control group, most consistent associations with falls were observed for low blood pressure (BP) (4/5 studies showing a positive association), heart failure (4/5), and cardiac arrhythmia (4/6). Higher prevalences of CSH (4/6), VVS (2/2), and PPH (3/4) were reported in fallers compared with controls in most studies, but most of these studies failed to show clear association measures. Coronary artery disease (6/10), orthostatic hypotension (9/25), general cardiovascular disease (4/9), and hypertension (7/25) all showed inconsistent associations with falls. Arterial stiffness was identified as an independent predictor for falls in one study, as were several echocardiographic abnormalities.

Conclusion: Several cardiovascular associations with falls were identified, including low BP, heart failure, and arrhythmia. These results provide several angles for optimizing fall-preventive care, but further work on standard definitions, as well as the exact contribution of individual risk factors on fall incidence is now important to find potential areas for preventive interventions.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disorders; blood pressure; cardiac arrhythmia; falls; syncope.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Syncope