Improve Balance and Avoid Falls
How do you improve balance and avoid falls? We will discuss this question in today’s post. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the number one cause of injuries, hospital admissions and death for older Americans. One in four Americans aged 65 and older falls every year and more than 90% of hip fractures are due to falls. Making falls a public health concern. Gradual physical changes among the aging population contribute to fear of falling. Weak muscles, slower reflexes, and worsening eyesight can affect an overall sense of balance. As a result, confidence dips and people begin moving less during the day cutting back on activities. This only exacerbates fall risk as muscles and reflexes – essential to balance – grow weaker.
The body maintains balance and coordination through a complex set of sensors and control systems. These systems coordinate together and send signals to the brain in the form of nerve impulses.
- Central Nervous System – spinal cord
- Vestibular System – inner ear balance mechanism
- Visual System – eyes and the muscles and parts of the brain that work together to let us see
Our body also utilizes sensors to keep us from falling. Proprioceptive sensors are small sensors found around joints, muscles, and tendons. They give feedback to the Central Nervous System to keep us stable. When one or two of these systems are impaired, we have unsteadiness.
Age is not the only cause of a shaky balance. Medications affect it too. This is often due to the number of medicines taken rather than a single drug. Taking several medications simultaneously increases the risk of side effects. Older individuals are especially prone to this since drugs are absorbed and broken down differently as we age. According to Harvard Medical, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, antihistamine, antispasmodic, blood pressure, heart drugs, opioids/NSAIDs and sleep drugs are all known to increase fall risk.
Health conditions are also a factor for instability, Harvard Medical continues. Conditions such as:
- Vestibular disorders Eye disorders
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
The good news is that falls can be prevented. Remaining active in even mild exercise increases muscle strength, bone mass, and flexibility. Balance For Life is a great place to find easy exercise ideas for improving balance. Their free 5-day balance course emails you a daily exercise video. Balance For Life also has an eight-part video series on YouTube with recommended exercises from Harvard Medical School. Being proactive with your health not only prevents falls, but it improves confidence to live an independent lifestyle as long as possible.
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