Senior man holds onto his wife for support as they both balance on one leg at the gym.

Balance and Falls

Have you ever noticed that as you get older you can’t quite do the things you could as you could when you were younger.  Your reaction time seems slower, you are not quite as strong as you were and you just don’t seem to move as well.  First the bad news.  To a certain extent that is just normal. we do get slower, we do get stiffer and we do get weaker.  And with this, as we get older the associated injury and health risks become more serious.  The good news is, that although we cannot stop the process, there is a lot we can do to slow it down and decrease the chances of age related injury and the subsequent associated health issues.

 

Falls in the older population are a very serious health concern.  When older people stumble they don’t have the reaction time or strength to react to avoid a fall.  And when they fall it is more likely that, because their body tissue is more frail and their bones more brittle, they may suffer a serious injury such as a fracture.  Such injuries obviously lead to inactivity and inactivity leads to other heath issues such as muscle wasting.  Extended periods of bed rest and inactivity also lead to respiratory conditions and possible chest infections.  In older people, who often have other health issues this can have dire consequences.  In fact up to 25% of elderly people who fall and sustain a fractured hip do not survive 12 months.  The risk of serious complications after a fall is compounded by associated health problems such as heart disease, respiratory disorders, diabetes and obesity.

 

Regular exercise has a number of health benefits that can decrease both the risk of falling and the consequences should one occur. Improved cardiovascular capacity, maintaining a healthy body weight, sustaining joint mobility, maximising bone density and preservation of muscle strength and tone are some of these benefits.

In cases where there are warning signs of loss of balance it is important to seek the appropriate help to avoid a possible fall.  it is possible to improve the physical deficits that increase the risk of falling.  It is also possible to improve physical fitness such as aerobic capacity and muscular strength no matter what age you are.

The consequences of falling can be extremely serious and yet so avoidable.  Be proactive about your physical well being to not only avoid the negative consequences of physical neglect, but also gain the added benefits of an increased physical capacity of your day to day living.