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

How does cold weather affect your health?

Cold weather brings a number of health risks for older adults. Close indoor contact with other people puts one at risk for cold and flu. Prolonged exposure to even mild cold puts one at risk for hypothermia. A lack of moisture in the air can make skin dry. And cold weather, which can narrow blood vessels, can increase the risk of heart attack. To fight back against these risks, people can wash their hands frequently, bundle up when going outdoors, use an oil-based skin lotion, shower in lukewarm water, and avoid intense outdoor activity. More »

Chronic condition? You could be at risk for a fall

A person’s health can be a risk factor for a fall. Chronic conditions such as vision problems, Parkinson’s disease, low blood pressure, joint pain, and inner ear problems can all cause imbalance. That can lead to a fall. Side effects from some medications—such as sleeping aids and certain blood pressure medications—may also increase fall risk. Dehydration can cause dizziness, and lead to a fall. Low vitamin D levels may also make someone more at risk for falling. (Locked) More »

Don't let mobility sneak out the door

The ability to leave the home and move around freely without assistance is essential to living a healthy, independent life. Losing that mobility can lead to a spiral of health problems and a higher risk for premature death. A recent large clinical trial confirmed that loss of mobility can be reduced with regular exercise for strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. More »

Stay flexible to protect your mobility

People need flexible muscles in order to extend the arms and legs, walk across a room, and maintain balance. When muscles aren’t flexible, they lose cells that help them contract. A person becomes weaker and prone to falls. A program of daily stretching is recommended for people who’ve lost flexibility. Three days a week will do the job for someone in better shape.  (Locked) More »

Simple exercises to prevent falls

Changes to the brain and nervous system, vision, muscles, and other systems that control balance can lead to an increased risk for falls. Strength training, balance exercises, stretches, and other forms of exercise can help prevent falls. (Locked) More »

Easy ways to protect your mobility

Loss of mobility is common among older adults, and it has profound social, psychological, and physical consequences. Common risk factors include older age, low physical activity, obesity, impaired strength and balance, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. The key to avoiding immobility is determining risk and taking steps to head off problems. Some research suggests that doctors can check mobility risk by asking if a person has difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter-mile. Someone who does might benefit from physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social support. (Locked) More »

Pill-free way to reduce pain and improve balance and flexibility

Yoga is a series of postures and breathing techniques that include an element of awareness. It has many components that can help one cope with everything from chronic illness to sleep disorders. The poses help decrease muscular tension and build flexibility and strength. Weight-bearing postures can help build bone strength, and there are postures to improve balance. The mindfulness aspect of yoga helps with stress reduction, improves sleep, and helps one become more accepting of the body during the aging process. (Locked) More »