By Gregory Whyte
Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Fitness Center
Falling is a serious problem for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults, those 65 and older, fall each year. Over 700,000 seniors are hospitalized each year because of fall related injuries. Improving your balance is a good way of helping to prevent falls.
Good balance is the result of several body systems working together to help us stand and move comfortably and with control. These systems include the eyes (visual system), the ears (vestibular system) and the network of proprioceptors responsible for providing an awareness of the body’s position in space (proprioception). Proprioceptors (nerve receptors) are found in muscles and the joint-supporting ligaments found throughout the body. The information they receive helps to facilitate balance as we stand and move.
Should any of the systems required for balance fail to work properly, balance problems will result. Should this be the case, a wide range of conditions are possible. These conditions, although they may possess different causes, have similar manifestations. Most people will complain of feeling dizzy, disoriented, unsteady or even giddy when standing or walking. These sensations can last for a short while or continue for days, weeks, months or even longer. They may decrease in intensity or become worse over time. Once present, they will make it difficult or impossible for one to maintain good balance.
Even when the balance systems are working correctly, a number of conditions and/or behaviors can exist that, over time, help to make good balance impossible. Inactivity and poor diet are examples. Inactivity can lead to weight gain, loss of muscle mass (tissue), joint pain and weakness, and a decrease in bone strength. If diet fails to provide your body with the important elements it needs, over time it can prevent organs and systems from functioning properly. For instance, when calcium is lacking in one’s diet, a decrease in the density (compactness and strength) of bones becomes possible.
Good balance is important if you are to remain active, independent, productive and safe. It is vital that effort be made to ensure that its maintenance be a part of any attempt at ensuring safety, fitness and good health.
The following tips are provided to help you gain more control of your balance:
• Pay particular attention to the proper functioning of your eyes and ears. Have them checked by your doctor, at least, once each year.
• Exercise regularly to ensure that your muscles and bones are kept strong.
• Ensure that your diet provides all the important nutrients required for good health. Place emphasis on protein, calcium and vitamins A and D.
• Ensure that the drugs you are taking (if any) do not interfere with the proper functioning of the “balance systems” mentioned above. You may wish to check with your doctor or pharmacist.
• Get adequate amounts of rest and sleep.
• Integrate balance stimulating activities into your life. Examples of such activities are walking, hiking and dancing.
Because falls can be dangerous or even life threatening, every effort should be made to avoid their occurrence. This can be done through the use of an effective balance improvement program. The Fusion One program offered at the Cultural Center can help you maintain and improve your balance. A special class is now being formed. This comprehensive balance improvement class starts Aug. 13. To register, call 941-625-4175, ext. 223, or visit the Cultural Center at 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte.