Study: Older adults taking more than 5 drugs walk slower

Polypharmacy -- taking five or more different prescription or non-prescription medications -- can have negative side effects including falls, frailty, disability, and possibly death.

By Amy Wallace

June 27 (UPI) -- New research has found older adults taking five or more medications, known as polypharmacy, walk slower than those taking fewer medications.

Polypharmacy can have negative side effects including falls, frailty, disability, and possibly death.


For the study, published June 26 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers analyzed data from 482 adults age 65 and older who were enrolled in the Central Control of Mobility in Aging study, which examines the changes in the brain and central nervous system that happen in aging and how they affect a person's ability to walk.

Participants underwent detailed exams of their physical and mental health and mobility at the beginning of the study and at yearly follow-ups from June 2011 to February 2016. None of the participants required the use of walking aids such as canes or walkers while their walking speed was assessed.

Participants were divided into polypharmacy and non-polypharmacy groups, with roughly 34 percent of participants using five or more medications during the study period, while 10 percent used more than eight medications.

Participants in the polypharmacy group were more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure and a history of heart attacks. They were also more likely to report having a fall in the last year and were more overweight compared to those in the non-polypharmacy group.


Researchers found that after accounting for other factors such as chronic health problems and a history of falls, participants in the polypharmacy group had a slower walking speed than people in the non-polypharmacy group.

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