Orthostatic Hypotension in Middle-Age and Risk of Falls

Am J Hypertens. 2017 Feb;30(2):188-195. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpw108. Epub 2016 Sep 16.


Background: One-third of older adults fall each year. Orthostatic hypotension (OH) has been hypothesized as an important risk factor for falls, but findings from prior studies have been inconsistent.

Methods: We conducted a prospective study of the association between baseline OH (1987-1989) and risk of falls in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Falls were ascertained during follow-up via ICD-9 hospital discharge codes or Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services claims data. OH was defined as a drop in systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥20mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥10mm Hg within 2 minutes of moving from the supine to standing position. Changes in SBP or DBP during OH assessments were also examined as continuous variables.

Results: During a median follow-up of 23 years, there were 2,384 falls among 12,661 participants (mean age 54 years, 55% women, 26% black). OH was associated with risk of falls even after adjustment for demographic characteristics and other risk factors (hazard ratio (HR): 1.30; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10, 1.54; P = 0.002). Postural change in DBP was more significantly associated with risk of falls (HR 1.09 per -5mm Hg change in DBP; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.13; P < 0.001) than postural change in SBP (HR 1.03 per -5mm Hg change in SBP; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.05; P = 0.002).

Conclusions: In a community-based, middle-aged population, OH, and in particular, postural change in DBP, were independent risk factors for falls over 2 decades of follow-up. Future studies are needed to examine OH thresholds associated with increased risk of falls.

Keywords: ARIC; blood pressure; epidemiology; fall; hypertension; orthostatic hypotension; prospective cohort..

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forecasting*
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / complications
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / epidemiology*
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / physiopathology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology