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Staying Healthy And Balanced As You Age

It's a fact of life, and a fact of aging, that once we celebrate our 30th birthday our balance begins to decline. As we continue to age, that lack of balance can be potentially harmful as it can result in trips and falls.

In individuals over the age of 65, broken hips and injuries from falls constitute a majority of the hospitalizations that occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2010, there were 2.3 million older adults that were treated in the emergency room for injuries suffered in a fall. Because of the frequency of falls and the health consequences that can potentially arise, they are as serious to older individuals as heart attacks and strokes.

Elderly individuals, or those suffering from balance issues benefit from having a medical alert device. If they suffer a fall and cannot get to a telephone, or live alone, they can push a button to summon assistance. A medical alert device offers peace of mind to the elderly individual and to the family that may not be able to be there all of the time. These devices are helpful for almost anyone, regardless of age, dealing with not only balance issues, but with other health concerns as well.

There are ways many factors that can lead to balance issues and they include:

  • How well your brain relays messages from your sensory system to your muscles and how quickly your body responds. These are neural communication issues.
  • You may be suffering musculoskeletal issues resulting from your bone health and your muscle mass.
  • If you have any inner ear or vision issues this could lead to imbalance issues as well.

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, there are steps you can take and it may begin with a trip to your physician. Some items to be proactive about include:

  • Talk with your physician about your balance issues and also about the medications you’re taking. Medications may either interact with one another or cause an issue or the medication itself may lead to imbalance.
  • See an eye doctor and have your vision checked. If your eyeglass prescription is off or if you are having an issue with your vision it could impact your balance.
  • You may need to visit an orthopedist for an evaluation of your gait, balance, joint function and overall muscle strength. There is a possibility that you’re simply out of shape and strength training and other exercises may help improve your balance and stability.

What else can you do to help restore your balance? Here are some exercises that may help (don’t start any kind of exercise regiment without first checking with your doctor:

  • Walking. This is a simple exercise that anyone, in almost any state of fitness can undertake. When you consider that with every step we are “throwing our bodies out of balance” and then “getting back in balance with the next step” this is a perfect way to regain balance and get fit at the same time!
  • This stance, called the stork, may resemble a yoga pose. To do the stork, stand next to a counter (in case you need to stabilize yourself) lift one leg and let go of the counter. Try to do this until you can easily balance with your eyes open and without swaying as you stand. Once you have mastered this, try to do the same with your eyes closed for 22 seconds. Individuals with good balance should be able to perform this task, you may just have to work your way up to the 22 second stance.
  • Riding a bicycle is another great way to enhance your stability and strengthen your muscles.
  • Balance is enhanced if you have a strong central core. One way to build your core strength is by doing wall squats. You can do this by standing with your back against a wall, with your feet about two feet away from it. Slide down the wall until you are almost in a seated position, hold for ten seconds, and then slide back up. Working your way up to being able to hold the squat for two minutes will help build your core strength.
  • Other ways to improve your strength are as simple as, not wearing your reading glasses when you’re walking around; reading glasses can impact your depth perception.
  • Wear shoes with thinner soles as thick-soled shoes prevent your feel from being able to feel the terrain beneath them. Additionally, stay away from high-heeled shoes if you are having balance issues.
  • Check with your doctor and even your local senior center for activities that are senior-friendly.