Self-reported cardiovascular conditions are associated with falls and syncope in community-dwelling older adults

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Background: with increasing age, causes of syncope are more often of cardiac origin. Syncope in older persons is often mistaken for falls. Data regarding the association between specific cardiovascular conditions, falls and syncope are limited.

Methods: cross-sectional analyses within a population sample aged 50+ (n = 8,173). Syncope and falls in the past year, cardiovascular conditions and co-variates were gathered through personal interviews. Associations between cardiovascular conditions and (recurrent) falls and syncope were studied through multivariable logistic regression.

Results: mean age was 64 years (range: 51–105); 54% was female. Four per cent reported syncope, 19% falls and 23% cardiovascular morbidity. Abnormal heart rhythm was associated with falls (odds ratio (OR) 1.3 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0–1.5]), syncope (OR 1.6 [1.2–2.3]) and recurrent syncope (OR 2.2 [1.3–3.6]). Heart murmur was associated with falls (OR 1.4 [1.1–1.8]), recurrent falls (OR 1.5 [1.0–2.0]) and syncope (OR 1.9 [1.3–2.7]). Angina was associated with recurrent falls (OR 1.4 [1.0–1.9]), syncope (OR 1.8 [1.2–2.6]) and recurrent syncope (OR 2.7 [1.6–4.6]). Heart failure was associated with recurrent falls (OR 1.9 [1.0–3.4]) and myocardial infarction with syncope (OR 1.5 [1.0–2.3]).

Conclusion: self-reported cardiovascular conditions are associated with falls and syncope in a general population cohort. This warrants additional cardiovascular evaluation in older patients with unexplained falls and syncope.

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