COLUMBUS — Marking the beginning of fall, the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness (PBO) and Ohio’s Aging Eye Public Private Partnership are supporting National Falls Prevention Awareness Day on Sept. 22. The goal is to bring attention to this serious issue that is the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and death among Ohioans age 65 and older.
An older Ohioan falls every two minutes on the average, resulting in an injury every five minutes, six emergency department visits and one hospitalization each hour, and three deaths each day. The number of fatal falls among older Ohioans has increased more than 167 percent since 2000.
Unfortunately, those with impaired vision are more likely to experience falls and injuries. According to a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), 52 percent of Ohio adults age 65 or older with severe vision impairment fell at least once in 2014 as compared with 28% of those without severe vision impairment. Visual impairment, which can include decreased visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, depth perception, and/or visual field, influences the risk of falls. Vision impairment can affect balance. It also increases the risk of tripping or misjudging steps, stairs or curbs.
Based on data from the 2014 “Vision Problems in the U.S.,” 1.4 million Ohioans age 40+ have vision problems that, if not corrected or treated, could lead to vision loss including age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Over 170,000 are blind or visually impaired. Another 2 million Ohioans have myopia or hyperopia that is correctable with a simple pair of eyeglasses, but some do without vision correction due to challenges with cost or transportation for doctor appointments. The number of Ohio residents with impaired vision, including blindness, could double in the next three decades.
Prevent Blindness supports the Ohio Department of Aging’s STEADY U Ohio’s falls prevention program, which offers these tips to stay active and healthy to prevent falls:
- Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses.
- Simple exercise, like walking or swimming at least 15 minutes a day can help build muscle strength and improve balance, which can prevent falls.
- Find a good balance and exercise program, like tai chi, to build balance, strength, and flexibility. Select a program you like and take a friend.
- Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist for side effects that may increase your risk of falling.
- Slow down and think through the task you are performing. Be mindful of possible falls risks and act accordingly.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of non-alcoholic liquids each day to prevent low blood pressure, fatigue and confusion.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of vegetables and calcium-rich foods like yogurt, cheese, milk, orange juice, tofu and calcium-fortified cereals to promote your health.
- Consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine or program.
“Because people with vision impairments are more than twice as likely to fall as those without, keeping a regular schedule of eye examinations with an eye care professional can help avoid debilitating falls in the future,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “We hope that by alerting the public to the dangers of falls, as well as educating them on ways to avoid them, we can help prevent unnecessary injuries. And, maintaining healthy vision is one way to accomplish this!”
For more information about National Falls Prevention Awareness Day or general eye health, please contact Prevent Blindness at 800-301-2020 or visit pbohio.org.