Review Article

Clinical Autonomic Research

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 3-13

The relationship between orthostatic hypotension and falling in older adults

  • Brett H. ShawAffiliated withDepartment of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University
  • , Victoria E. ClaydonAffiliated withDepartment of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University Email author 

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Abstract

Falls are devastating events and are the largest contributor towards injury-related hospitalization of older adults. Orthostatic hypotension (OH) represents an intrinsic risk factor for falls in older adults. OH refers to a significant decrease in blood pressure upon assuming an upright posture. Declines in blood pressure can reduce cerebral perfusion; this can impair consciousness, lead to dizziness, and increase the likelihood of a fall. Although theoretical mechanisms linking OH and falls exist, the magnitude of the association remains poorly characterized, possibly because of methodological differences between previous studies. The use of non-invasive beat-to-beat blood pressure monitoring has altered the way in which OH is now defined, and represents a substantial improvement for detecting OH that was previously unavailable in many studies. Additionally, there is a lack of consistency and standardization of orthostatic assessments and analysis techniques for interpreting blood pressure data. This review explores the previous literature examining the relationship between OH and falls. We highlight the impact of broadening the timing, degree, and overall duration of blood pressure measurements on the detection of OH. We discuss the types of orthostatic stress assessments currently used to evaluate OH and the various techniques capable of measuring these often transient blood pressure changes. Overall, we identify future solutions that may better clarify the relationship between OH and falling risk in order to gain a more precise understanding of potential mechanisms for falls in older adults.

Keywords

Orthostatic hypotension Falls Older adults Blood pressure monitoring Orthostatic stress testing