Maintaining good balance is always important, no matter your age. However, it becomes a bit more difficult to maintain your balance as you age.
When you’re young, you rarely have to think about balance. If your core muscles stay strong, you’re in good shape. That is unless you’re one of the clumsy ones. But as we age, unfortunately, our ability to balance decreases.
Roughly one in four adults over the age of 65 reports falling each year. That’s 36 million falls a year, with 3 million of them being treated in the ER. If those numbers weren’t bad enough, falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death in older adults.
Luckily, you can take steps to improve and strengthen your balance that will help prevent falls and injuries. But first, let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for decreased and compromised balance in older adults.
Common Balance Problems
There are several causes for balance problems in older adults. Age and getting older is obviously one of the main reasons for losing balance, but specific injuries, disorders, and diseases can also lead to balance problems. Some of the most common include:
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV is one of the most common disorders that cause dizziness in seniors and results in intense vertigo – a sensation of spinning. BPPV can occur from simply moving your head, such as when you roll over and get out of bed or rise from sitting. It is an inner ear disturbance that is often brought on by mild to severe head trauma. BPPV may go away on its own within a few weeks or months.
Medication Side Effects
Unfortunately, it seems the older we get, the more medication we have to take. All medications have side effects. Many, including blood pressure medication, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and some cancer drugs, can have side effects that affect your balance. You should discuss any possible drug interactions and/or side effects with your provider.
Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection that is known to affect balance. It develops when the inner ear becomes infected and inflamed, disrupting the transmission of nerve signals from the ear to the brain. Labyrinthitis is associated with the flu and can be treated with medication.
Another common cause of balance problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder where fluid builds up in the ear’s chambers. It causes symptoms such as dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and sporadic hearing loss. It can also cause you to feel nauseous and sick.
At-Home Exercises To Improve Balance
With so many diseases and conditions that can affect your balance, it’s never too early to start taking steps to improve your balance and prevent falls. Just as you exercise to strengthen your heart, you need to exercise to increase your balance. Many of these exercises can be done in minutes and while you’re watching TV. You don’t even have to carve time out of your day to do them. Just remember to listen to your body. If you become dizzy, stop and rest. Don’t overdo it.
This exercise is good for testing your balance. It sounds simple but standing on one foot can have you swaying back and forth if you aren’t careful. Start by standing on one foot for 10 seconds and then switching to the other foot. Slowly increase your time increments and do several rotations for a couple of minutes.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly move your head from side to side, then up and down. Try to keep your body as still as possible. If you need to hold onto something for balance, you can. Do this for 30 seconds and repeat.
Sit and Stand
This is great for balance as well as strengthening your legs. Start by sitting upright in a chair with your knees bent. Then, slowly stand up without swinging your torso or pushing yourself up with your hands. Do this 10 times.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one knee up, so your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your core straight and do not lean. Slowly return your foot to the floor and alternate legs. Perform 20 marches. If you need to hold onto something for balance, do so until you build up your strength.
Prevent Falls With Improved Balance
We can’t stop the aging process, but we can work to lessen some of the aspects that accompany getting older. Knowing how to maintain your balance as you age is important, not just for your overall health but also to prevent falls and unnecessary injuries.
The number one thing you can do to maintain your balance as you age is to keep moving! Mix in some balance strengthening exercises, and you will be well on your way to improved balance and flexibility.