Walking after meals helps save elderly from falls

By / 25th of March, 2015

STANDING up and moving around after eating could save older people from some falls caused by a sudden loss in blood pressure, according to new research.

The research, conducted in South Australia, found that the dizziness experienced by older people with post-prandial hypotension can be alleviated by simply walking a short distance after eating.

Post-prandial hypotension is a fall in blood pressure seen within two hours of eating a meal and has linked to a high incidence of falls among older people.

"Although this condition is common in older people, many are not aware of it," said the University of Adelaide's Professor Renuka Visvanathan, Director of the Adelaide Geriatrics Training and Research with Aged Care (G-TRAC) Centre, and Director of Aged and Extended Care Services at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

"Falls among older people often result in fractures, and those who experience a fall may lose confidence as well as lose their independence. Falls can also be fatal for older people," she says.

Professor Visvanathan says researchers have been trying to better understand the reasons as to why this condition occurs, in the hopes of developing improved treatments or preventing post-prandial hypotension.

Research by University of Adelaide student Dr Shailaja Nair and University of South Australia student Zoe Kopsaftis, working under the supervision of Professor Visvanathan and Dr Diana Piscitelli from the University of South Australia, has confirmed that older people with post-prandial hypotension should be encouraged to get up and walk intermittently at a normal pace to reduce the fall in blood pressure.

"This advice, coupled with other practical strategies, such as drinking a glass of water with meals, may help older people avoid the consequences of post-prandial hypotension," Professor Visvanathan said.

"Much of the research conducted to date has been undertaken in healthy older people, but this new research has involved people with a confirmed diagnosis of the condition," she said.

"Simple, practical and cheap lifestyle interventions that older people can implement are highly desirable,” she said. “The results showing that walking can be an effective strategy are pleasing, and will help in better understanding the overall picture of this common problem."

Key Contacts:

Professor Renuka Visvanathan

Director, Adelaide Geriatrics Training and Research with Aged Care (G-TRAC) Centre

Phone: +61 8 8222 8178

renuka.visvanathan@adelaide.edu.au