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  • Arthritis a 'Significant' Factor in Falls Injury, Rates

    Adults with arthritis are injured in falls at a rate 2.5 times higher than for those without the disease, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which described this "growing public health problem" as one that can best be addressed through a falls prevention approach that "involves exercise or physical therapy."

    The findings, published in the CDC's May 2 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, are based on an analysis of falls and falls injury gleaned from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a phone survey that interviewed 338,734 adults in all US states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Respondents were asked whether they have been told that they have some form of arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia; whether and how many times they had fallen in the past year; and whether those falls caused an injury (defined as an event that caused the respondent to limit regular activities for at least a day or see a doctor).

    The results showed that in almost all cases, rates of falls and falls injuries were "significantly higher" among adults 45 years and older with arthritis than those without, with 13.3% of adults with arthritis reporting fall injury, compared with a 6.5% rate of injury on adults without arthritis (median age-adjusted rates across the US).

    Other findings of the study:

    • Unadjusted median state prevalence of arthritis among adults 45 years and older: 40.1%
    • Median prevalence of 1 fall: adults without arthritis – 12.1%; adults with arthritis – 13.8%
    • Median prevalence of 2 or more falls: adults without arthritis – 9%; adults with arthritis – 13.8%

    When adjusted for age, the fall prevalence rate in 46 states was 30% or greater among adults with arthritis, with 16 states having an age-adjusted rate of 40% or higher for this group. Among adults without arthritis, no state had a fall rate higher than 30%.

    "The projected rapid growth in the population aged [65 years and older] and the increase in adults with arthritis (an estimated 67 million by 2030) … demonstrate the need for increasing fall prevention efforts," the report states. "Effective fall preventions can be multifaceted, but the most effective single strategy involves exercise or physical therapy to improve gait, balance, and lower body strength, which have been shown to reduce fall risk by 14%-37%."

    APTA provides continuing education on exercise prescriptions for balance improvement and falls prevention and offers other resources for physical therapists, such as how to develop consumer events on balance, falls, and exercise, information on evidence-based falls programs, and a clinical summary on falls risk in community-dwelling elderly. Members can also access an APTA pocket guide on falls risk reduction (.pdf) as well as an online community where members can share information about falls prevention.

    Research-related stories featured in News Now are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

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