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

Why wound healing gets harder as we age

Wounds in older adults can take a long time to heal. Treatment involves a combination of approaches such as debridement, special dressings, keeping pressure off the wound, exercising, taking a multivitamin, and eating a healthy diet with the recommended amounts of protein. Because wounds are tricky, it’s important to try to prevent them by switching positions often; keeping an eye out for nicks, cuts, and early signs of pressure wounds; and controlling conditions that can lead to wounds, such as diabetes and venous insufficiency. (Locked) More »

Your health through the decades

By age 60, all men tend to get thrown together into the so-called 60-and-older group, even though there are often significant differences between a man who is 65 and one who is 85. Certain lifestyle habits need to be maintained, no matter what a man’s age, such as adopting a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and continuing a regular exercise routine to build strength, flexibility, and cardio fitness. Yet most men also need to place extra attention on certain aspects of their health depending on whether they are in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. (Locked) More »

The safe way to do yoga for back pain

The mind-body practice of yoga can be a great therapeutic activity to help strengthen back muscles and alleviate low back pain. However, older adults can encounter injuries from yoga, including to their backs, by doing the poses incorrectly. By taking preventive measures, relying on yoga instructors for guidance, and using support tools, people can safely practice yoga as a way to treat and manage back pain. More »

Balancing act

Every year, about one-third of adults older than age 65 experience at least one accidental fall. About 20% of these falls result in a serious injury like broken bones in the wrist, arm, and ankle; hip fractures; and head injuries. Performing balance exercises can help reduce a person’s risk of falling. (Locked) More »

Coping with motion sickness

The most widely accepted theory about the cause of motion sickness points to a phenomenon called sensory conflict, when the inputs of the senses don’t agree. For example, if one is below the deck of a ship, the eyes see the room sitting still, while the balance organs in the ear read the rolling motion of the ship, so there’s disagreement. That’s sensory conflict, and it makes some people motion sick. One way to counter it is to look out at the world while moving. Sucking on peppermint candy may also help. (Locked) More »

Is vertigo caused by a magnesium deficiency?

There is little evidence that vertigo is due to magnesium deficiency or prevented by magnesium supplementation. However, there is some evidence linking low vitamin D levels with vertigo and suggesting that vitamin D supplementation may be helpful. (Locked) More »

5 tools to maintain your mobility

Walking poles, walking sticks, canes, crutches, and walkers can aid balance and mobility. Choosing the right device, having it properly fitted, and learning how to walk with it are keys to using mobility aids successfully. More »

Does balance go south starting at 40?

Evidence suggests that the vestibular system in the inner ear—which helps detect motion and maintain balance—starts to decline early in middle age and gets worse with each decade. More »