Heart Health

Symptom-free dips in blood pressure may precede unexplained falls

Research we're watching

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

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If your blood pressure drops sharply when you stand (a condition called orthostatic hypotension) you may feel light-headed or dizzy. But a new study suggests that older people with orthostatic hypotension often have no symptoms — and they're more likely to experience unexplained falls than people who do have symptoms.

The study, published in the December 2022 issue of Age and Ageing, included 934 people ages 70 and older. Testing revealed that almost 11% had orthostatic hypotension, which can be caused by various medications, medical conditions, or age. It's defined as a sustained drop in systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) of at least 20 points or in diastolic blood pressure (the second number) of at least 10 points within three minutes of standing.

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss

About the Reviewer

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

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