Balance is a popular buzzword right now. It seems everyone is trying to find balance in their lives, which mostly means trying to figure out how to work less and play more. But for older Americans, finding balance can more often mean simply being able to stand or walk without falling over.
Balance is one of those things that we take for granted, until we can’t. Having good balance means being able to walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling or sagging, climb stairs without tripping or bend over without falling. Balance problems are among the most common reasons for older Americans to see a doctor, and for good reason.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of Americans over age 65 fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among older Americans.
Not all of those falls are caused by balance problems. Slipping on an icy sidewalk, getting tangled up in the dog’s leash, or tripping on an uneven curb can all happen whether you have balance problems or not.
Still, people with poor balance, either because of muscle weakness or an inner ear disturbance, are at much higher risk of falling. Unfortunately, even non-fatal falls can lead to a downward spiral, especially if the fall results in a fractured hip or other broken bones.
At Village Green Retirement Campus, we take fall prevention very seriously.
For residents who want to improve their balance, we also offer various exercise classes that can make a difference. Yoga, Zumba or anything that improves core strength will all help. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also has a great website with tips on improving balance through five simple exercises.
For people who experience on-going or periodic bouts of dizziness or light-headedness, their balance problems may be related to an inner ear disturbance, and not a lack of muscle tone. Any inflammation of the inner ear can affect your balance, so if you or a loved one experience ear pain or dizziness it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. According to the NIH, there are many ways to treat balance disorders, so don’t wait until you fall to get the help you need.