The Best Ways for Seniors to Improve Balance
Humans can be clumsy no matter what age we are, however, fall risk and accidents increase the older we get. As we age, our bones get more brittle. Every fall puts you at risk for the big bone breaks; a leg, an arm, or your hip.
Breaking any bone in your golden years can be devastating as our ability to heal slows down and we become more prone to infection. Breaking a hip is even worse. It is almost guaranteed to reduce your quality of life and the ability to live independently.
This article will talk about reasons for balance problems, how to improve balance, how to avoid falls, and what to do if you do fall. Quick response time is essential to increase your odds of getting proper treatment for better healing.
Most Common Signs of Balance Disorders
Eight million American adults report balance problems. Unfortunately, fall risk goes up dramatically after the age of 75. Many things can affect your balance. Balance is a fragile thing that depends on all the systems in our body going smoothly.
If you are feeling dizzy, nauseous, have blurred vision, and/or losing your balance more often, go see your doctor as soon as possible. The more quickly you can get to the bottom of your balance problems, the more likely you are to decrease your fall risk, which reduces your risk of the dreaded hip replacement.
Vertigo is actually a symptom that accompanies many disorders; it is not a disorder on its own. It is usually the first sign that something is wrong. This is usually caused by something being off in the inner ear where your balance is most affected or by a chemical imbalance in your brain.
Viruses, calcium crystals in your inner ear, and other unknown causes can trigger balance disorders. Your doctor will be able to tell the cause and determine treatment for a long list of possible conditions that increase your fall risk.
Migraines have shown to be associated with vertigo. Though more studies need to be done, a few studies have shown that those who suffer from migraines will also have issues with vertigo. If you are a migraine sufferer and notice that you are more clumsy than usual, make an appointment with your doctor right away.
If you have ever suffered from a head injury, the long term effects can get worse with time. When the head is knocked around violently enough to cause injury, it affects the delicate systems in our brain and inner ear. This can happen with both a recent head injury and even a head injury that happened decades ago.
If you ever had a concussion or even a head injury that was bad enough to go to the doctor, be sure to keep a close eye out for any signs of vertigo or vision problems.
Blood pressure can play a surprising role in your balance. Low blood pressure causes dizziness. High blood pressure itself does not but some high blood pressure medications do. It is always good to keep an eye on anything to do with blood pressure.
Tips to Improve Balance & Reduce Falls
Flexibility and strength are critical to maintaining a strong sense of balance. But there are also other ways to avoid tragic accidents that can happen due to balance problems. The following is a thorough list to help you stay upright.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
Any exercise that has you maintain balance on one leg or stand on your tiptoes will improve your balance. The following exercises strengthen your calf and thigh muscles, which can help prevent slippery falls. Always make sure that you have a chair within reach so that you don’t fall while doing exercises designed to reduce your fall risk!
1. Stand on One Leg
Hold the back of a chair and lift your right leg so that you’re balancing on your left leg. Hold this position for as long as you can and then switch legs. Work up to doing this with each leg for a full minute each.
2. Walk Heel to Toe
Just as it sounds, walk purposefully with your heel down first and then your toe. Make sure that your stepping foot’s heel is in line with the top of the other foot’s toes. Work up to doing this for 20 paces.
3. March in Place
Lift each leg as high as you can while bending the knee. Hold onto something solid for balance. Work up to doing twenty marches.
4. Tip Toe Lifts
Make sure you have something to hold onto if you lose your balance. Hold your arms out in front of you and stand on your tiptoes as long as possible. Work up to doing this twenty times.
Physical therapists deal with balance problems every day. They are trained to show you how to improve balance in a detailed and customized way. The above balance exercises for seniors are a start but if you don’t see results, a physical therapist can work with you to customize a routine that meets your exact needs. Check your medical insurance to see if physical therapy is covered. It usually is with a referral from your doctor.
Home Safety Assessment
While you work on your balance, you should assess your home for environmental hazards to eliminate fall triggers and add tools around your home to help with your balance. For example, American Family Physician recommends clearing your home of rugs to avoid floor unevenness, removing clutter, attaching grab bars in places where you have to get up and down, and improving the lighting in every room.
Medical Alert System
Sometimes, even going through and removing all the risks in your home isn’t enough. As an extra layer of safety, consider getting a medical alert system. Not only do they get help to you immediately if something bad happens, but they can help you even when you are unable to speak with a special fall detection technology.
Fall detection has a motion sensor that can tell when a person has fallen. When a fall is detected, if the help button isn’t pushed on any of the medical alert devices, an alert is automatically sent to the call center letting them know there is a problem. They get the authorities to you immediately.
When you consider that there is a fall risk with things like having a stroke that can take your voice away, this is a powerful backup to get you help right away even at your most incapacitated. Medical Alert and MobileHelp are both rated highly for their fall detection packages.
Get good quality sleep
A lot of people minimize the importance of sleep but it is vital for good health. It’s also vital for keeping good balance as clarity and alertness can help you have a better sense of balance. Five to seven hours a night can dramatically reduce your risk of falling as it improves clarity and reaction time.
As you can see you have a lot of options available to you to strengthen your muscles, balance, and lower your fall risk. Any change with your balance should be taken seriously and no matter what state your balance is in, practicing the balance exercises for seniors is sure to help keep you strong and less likely to tumble. For the best state of mind, make sure your home is free of tripping hazards and look into getting a medical alert system to help get you help right away should an unfortunate fall happen to you or your loved one. Preparation is the key to safe and independent living in your senior years.