Balance and Aging
Over 33+% of those aged 65 or older fall each year. Dr. Neil Cherian, at the Neurological Center for Pain – Cleveland Clinic, specializes in tinnitus, dizziness, and balance disorders. He says, “As you age, common aging disorders like vision loss, arthritis, and a diminished number of nerve endings in the feet can negatively affect your balance.”
The bodies vestibular system is a key part of the balance mechanism. In the inner ear, it is a system of fluid-filled tubes that work with specialized nerves that relay to the brain what position our body is oriented in. With aging, it is common for that system to begin to not work as well. Blood flow in the inner ear, parts of the brain and the number of nerves in the inner ear begin to decline after age 55.
Also it is common for muscle strength, flexibility, and an increase in joint pain to adversely affect mobility and balance. This often leads to a negative spiral of less walking, avoiding stairs, not hiking, etc which in turn leads to less ability to move with good balance.
However, some activities can help to train and maintain your sense of balance, and your core strength which helps with your agility as you age. The marvellous body can almost always increase strength in a short period of time with exercise!
Muscle strength, and flexibility are needed for balance. Many seniors struggle with limited mobility, pain and arthritis which affects their balance. “Cardiovascular workouts like hiking and climbing can help maintain and even improve your equilibrium,” Dr. Cherian states.
There are simple activities that improve and strengthen that are perhaps more appropriate for seniors – such as Tai Chi, yoga, water aerobics, dancing and gardening, all of which can help to keep your sense of balance tuned up.
Here are some great Langley Area Resources:
Langley City Senior Resource Page
Scroll down for Seniorcise
Langley Seniors Resources Centre has active body activities like Table Tennis, Carpet Bowling, Snooker, Fitness class, Osteo Fitness & Chair Fitness, Tai Chi, Walking Club, Dance classes from line Dancing, Ballroom Dancing, to Belly Dancing, and Shuffleboard
Township of Langley Fitness Calendars
Use it or lose it!
Home Strengthening Exercises
Here are some easy to use strengthening exercises at home that also help to train balance:
- Stand with your back to a wall, with your heels about 8 inches from it. Lift the balls of your feet off the ground as high as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Using the back of a chair, a railing or wall to steady yourself, move up and down on the balls of your feet. Repeat as many times as you can. When you begin to feel steadier, try the exercise standing on one leg at a time.
- Repeatedly getting up from a chair can also strengthen hip and thigh muscles. Try to use your hand as little as possible when doing this for the greatest benefit.
- Walk. Even a little each day with small increases will help.
- Finally if pain permits, practice walking up and down stairs to strengthen thigh and hip muscles.
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of death from injury among the elderly and the sixth most common of all causes. Problems with balance are common in older adults. They are one of the most common reasons for seeing a doctor.
Balance disorders in older people can also be due to inner ear problems. These include:
• Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Endolymphatic infillings such as an otolith, or statoconia are structures in the saccule or utricle of the inner ear, specifically in the vestibular labyrinth of all vertebrates. Tiny particles of calcium break free in the inner ear and hit these sensors – sensitive to gravity and linear acceleration, which tell the brain where you are in space. This creates a sensation of dizziness and an intense feeling of vertigo when you change position.
• Labyrinthitis – virus caused swelling and irritation of the inner ear.
• Menière’s Disease – An inner ear disorder characterized by low-pitched tinnitus, vertigo, intermittent hearing loss (it comes and goes) and a feeling of fullness in the ear.
• Loss of balance can also be a result of vision problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Cardiac problems, low blood sugar and some medications can also lead to a loss of balance.