– Dr. Veronica (PT) – Physiotherapist, Nightingales Trust Bagchi Centre for Active Ageing
Balance Problems and Ageing
What are Balance Problems?
Balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium. If a person is able to control and maintain his or her body’s position comfortably while walking, climbing stairs, standing or even sitting still means that the person has good balance to maintain his/her body position.
The term “Balance problems” refers to a range of conditions wherein the person’s sense of body position is decreased or lost.
What is the relation between Balance Problems and Ageing?
Modest changes in balance function occur in fit older individuals as a result of normal ageing. Most older people feel dizzy briefly at some time or the other. Even healthy older adults usually have less secure balance than they had when they were younger. Older adults may be taking many medications or are coping with chronic conditions that can interfere with balance.
How does Balance Problems affect the aged?
People with Balance problems generally tend to fall. In India, 14% to 53% of older adults, aged 60 years and older, are involved in falls. Falls lead to 20% to 30% of mild-to-severe injuries, and are the underlying cause of 10% to 15% of all emergency department visits.
What causes Balance Problems in aged?
The balance problems arise due to various age related disorders that act as risk factors. Figure 1 illustrates the vicious cycle that involves causes of imbalance, consequence of imbalance – the fall, and consequence of the fall – injury and inactivity, which contribute to the imbalance.
How can exercises help Balance Problems in aged?
When a child falls, he or she usually gets up and keeps moving. But when an older adult falls, there are often consequences. Broken bones and head injuries can knock confidence, engender a fear of falling and undermine the independence of the elderly person. Various researches help us understand that exercise can reduce not only the odds of falling but the odds of sustaining fall related injuries.
Exercises help counter the balance problems through the following benefits:
- Faster reaction time: This can help people keep themselves upright if they start to fall by putting out an arm quickly to grab something stable.
- Improved coordination: This helps prevent falls but also help elderly roll rather than crash as they go down during the fall.
- More muscle: Stronger and larger muscles can buffer the impact of a fall, providing some protection to bones and joints.
- Stronger bones: Resistance exercises strengthen bones and stronger bones are more resistant to fractures.
- Better brain function: Regular exercises helps maintain brain function with age. Clearer thinking may help elderly avoid situations that increase their fall risk.
What are the balance exercises that can be performed at home?
Here are few of the exercises to improve balance. Please consult your physiotherapist before you do them.