Why do we lose our balance when we become older?

Why do we lose our balance when we become older?

Balance is the body’s ability to maintain equilibrium when we are carrying out our daily activities. Unfortunately it declines with age, and by age 65, one in three people will have potentially serious falls.

Falls are a major health issue in Australia and this is set to increase with the proportion of people aged over 65 predicted to increase from 14 % (2010) to 23 % in 2050Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 12.22.23 pm

Apart from the physical injuries sustained from falls, it can result in restriction of activity and fear of falling – loss of confidence and hesitancy with resultant loss of mobility and independence.

But why do we lose our ability to balance as we age?

Balance is dependent on three major sensory contributors.

Vision provides you with a sense of where you are in relation to your environment. It also gives you clues that keep you from tripping over obstacles.

Nerve receptors in the inner ear (vestibular organ) send balance messages to the brain when your head moves e.g. side to side, up and down.

Nerves embedded in muscles and tendons are called proprioceptors which tell the brain when a movement occurs in order for the body to shift to maintain its equilibrium.

When one or more of the above systems malfunctions, your balance can be affected.

Other risk factors that can contribute to falls are muscle weakness in the lower body, foot pain, poor footwear; some neurological conditions like Parkinsons’; some medications and home hazards like lose mats, clutter, poor lighting etc.Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 12.22.11 pm

On the upside, balance is a motor skill that can be maintained and even improved with exercises that keep your hips, knees and ankles strong. Exercises performed regularly are scientifically proven to lower your risk of falls and to maintain independence. For example, exercise can improve muscular strength, balance, balance confidence and walking speed, as well as psychological factors such as mental ability and mood. If you or a loved one experience balancing issues or experienced a fall, your Physiotherapist will be able to provide you with professional advice and management strategies to lower the falls risk.

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At Ellenbrook Physiotherapy we present Active Aging Pilates classes tailored to improve your balance, muscle power, joint stability and general wellbeing.

For an appointment, call 9297 1188.

By Antoinette Stickling

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