By Terry Cobb, CPT-CES
As our “Baby Boomer” generation ages, we have come to discover that many are suffering from serious balance issues. Unintentional falls among those 65 and older are responsible for more than 18,000 deaths and nearly 450,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Most of these falls are caused by a decline in that complex and multidimensional human skill known as balance.
To remain upright and sure-footed, explained Dr. David Thurman, a neurologist with the center and a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology, “there are several components of the nervous system, as well as motor or movement functions, that need to be intact.” These include the vestibular system of the inner ear, vision and proprioception, the ability to sense where one’s arms, legs or other parts of the body are without looking at them, as well as the strength and flexibility of bones and soft tissue. “All of these,” Dr. Thurman said, “tend to degrade with age, particularly as people move into their seventh and eighth decades.” Though our balance will decline as we age, balance activities and training can limit the loss or actually improve our performance. Although there are often many factors involved with decreased balance as we age, a lot of this decline is simply due to our inactivity. This can usually be improved with training. This training will involve improving your overall upper and lower body strength along with challenging your balance system daily.
Sometimes, balance issues may involve more than just inactivity. Here are some things that may be involved with your balance problems, as well:
- Your vision may decrease which can lead to falls due to not seeing clearly.
- Your hips and legs can become weaker making it harder to walk.
- We can develop poor posture or have spinal degeneration making it harder to stand erect.
- Our ability to lift our feet decreases and we can stumble.
- It takes longer to react when something is in our way causing us to fall.
- Many drugs interact causing dizziness or decrease balance.
- Low blood pressure can lead to light-headedness increasing our risk of falls.
“The preponderance of evidence,” Dr. Thurman said, “shows fairly convincingly that strength and balance training can reduce the rate of falls by up to about 50 percent.” So don’t delay in practicing your balance-everyday. Besides the training you do with your trainer, practice, practice, practice. Remember, “It makes perfect!” Call us at YPB Training Studio and get started on improving your posture and balance today!
Make sure you check with your doctor if you suspect a more serious balance problem involving vertigo, ear infections, Meniere’s disease, chronic dizziness or drug interactions.