Balance & Mobility

Balance is the ability to distribute your weight in a way that lets you stand or move without falling, or recover if you trip. Good balance requires the coordination of several parts of the body: the central nervous system, inner ear, eyes, muscles, bones, and joints. Problems with any one of these can affect balance. Medical conditions can also affect balance. These include:

·       stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and other disorders of the central nervous system

·       Meniere's disease and other conditions that originate in the inner ear, which can cause vertigo and dizziness

·       cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which distort vision

·       weakness in major muscles, particularly the thighs, abdomen, and back

·       nerve damage in the legs and feet (peripheral neuropathy) can affect the ability to sense the ground you're standing or walking on.

Other things can also influence balance, including:

·       medications, including antidepressants, drugs for anxiety, pain medication, sleeping pills, antihistamines, and some heart and blood pressure medications.

·       alcohol, which slows reaction time and affects judgment and coordination

A medical exam can identify conditions that may impair balance, and identify drugs that may have side effects that cause lightheadedness.

 

Improving muscle strength in the legs and the core can improve balance. So can exercises like Tai chi that increase flexibility.

Balance & Mobility Articles

Quick fixes to keep you from falling

About half of all falls take place in the home. To prevent that, it helps to eliminate fall hazards in every room of the home. For example, in bedrooms, night lights can help shine the path to a bathroom; in living rooms, it’s important to remove floor clutter and throw rugs, and rearrange furniture that blocks the flow of traffic; and in bathrooms, it’s best to remove loose throw rugs, use nonslip mats and treads on slippery floors, and install grab bars near showers, bathtubs, and toilets.  More »

How to reduce your risk of accidents

When asked to name their greatest health risks, people rarely mention accidents. Yet accidental injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 136,000 lives annually. And if you're under 45, you're more likely to die from an accidental injury than from any other cause. Three types of accidents —poisonings, motor vehicle crashes, and falls — account for about two-thirds of these deaths, according to the Harvard Special Health Report Women's Health: Fifty and Forward. Poisoning is the leading cause of death due to injury in the United States, bridging all age groups. Car crashes are more likely to claim the lives younger people, while falls are a more common cause of death for seniors. More »

Don't fall for hip fractures

Research has found that one in every two people older than 65 who fracture a hip will never be as physically active and independent as before the injury, and most will have trouble with everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the bathroom. The CDC says that 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Taking action early to improve balance and coordination can help a person avoid falls and thus hip fractures and secure an active, healthy lifestyle. (Locked) More »

Stretching: The new mobility protection

Stretching keeps muscles long and flexible. That increases range of motion, reduces the risk for muscle and joint injury, reduces joint and back pain, improves balance, reduces the risk of falling, and improves posture. An overall stretching program will focus on the calves, the hamstrings, the hip flexors in the pelvis, quadriceps in the front of the thigh, and the muscles of the shoulders, neck, and lower back. It’s best to stretch every day or at least three or four times per week. More »

Good old-fashioned mobility insurance: Protecting your feet and ankles

Ignoring foot or ankle problems may lead to long periods of unnecessary disability. Common problems include fallen arches, ankle sprains, Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, bunions, and ingrown toenails. It’s best to seek out a doctor when a problem progresses or persists for more than a few weeks. Available fixes depend on the problem and its severity. Examining the feet at least once a week can help detect a condition early, before it turns into a big problem. More »

Protecting your independence and health with transportation options

Driving cessation and a lack of transportation puts people at risk for chronic disease, malnutrition, isolation, loneliness, and depression. But there are transportation alternatives, such as government-sponsored affordable rides; volunteer driving services; private-duty care drivers; shuttles from retirement facilities; and nonprofit groups that to provide rides for older adults and people with disabilities. Experts advise older adults to consider transportation alternatives well before they stop driving, especially if they have a chronic condition that will make it difficult to drive in the future.  (Locked) More »

Our best balance boosters

Poor balance is a common cause of falls, which send millions of people in the United States to emergency departments each year with broken hips and head injuries. Many strategies can improve balance, such as physical therapy, muscle strengthening, and tai chi or yoga. Vision is key to balance, so it’s important to get a comprehensive eye exam. A cane or a walker can complement balance and give a person more stability. It’s best to get measured for such a device and then get physical therapy to learn how to use it. More »

Knee buckling raises the risk of falls

Knee buckling is common in people with knee pain and knee osteoarthritis and raises the risk of falls and injuries. Strengthening the quadriceps muscles and doing balance exercises may help improve knee stability and reduce buckling.  More »

The new generation of wearable medical alert systems

Wearable medical alert systems summon emergency help with the touch of a button. They are becoming more popular now that many older adults are comfortable using electronic technology. Basic options work only within range of a base unit kept in the home. Other options include cellular technology that works anywhere and the ability to detect if the wearer has fallen. When choosing an alert system company, one should look for a deal with no long-term contracts, low activation fees, no cancellation fees, discounts for add-on services, free replacement for equipment that’s not working, and operators available 24 hours a day. (Locked) More »