• Transient hypotension may be one of many factors contributing to the high prevalence of falls among elderly people. To determine the frequency and magnitude of hypotensive responses to common daily activities, and their potential relationship to falls in the elderly, we examined blood pressure (BP) and heart rate during a standardized series of activities in 38 institutionalized recurrent fallers (age, 87±6 years), 20 institutionalized nonfallers (age, 85±5 years), and 10 healthy young control subjects (age, 24±3 years). The coefficient of variation for systolic BP during all activities was higher in elderly subjects (fallers, 14%±5%; nonfallers, 12%±3%) than in young control subjects (8%±1%). In contrast, the coefficient of variation for heart rate during all activities was higher in young subjects than in the elderly subjects. Elderly subjects had marked BP reduction following meals and nitroglycerin, which was significantly greater in fallers than in nonfallers, independent of the cause of the fall. Thus, institutionalized elderly have marked BP variability and hypotensive responses to meals and nitroglycerin. A decline in BP during common preload-reducing stresses may predispose some elderly people to falls.
(Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:1518-1524)