Why Getting Older Affects Your Balance

Man Falling On Staircase

Balance is a complicated equilibrium that the body maintains through a combination of sensory cues, your muscles and joints and the vestibular system. As you age and the body’s systems begin to slow down, so do the components that make up your balance. This makes you susceptible to injury, as one in three people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year. Join AIMS Clinic as we run through the ways that aging causes imbalance, and how you can resist it.

Reacting to Your Environment

Being able to take in information from your surroundings and react to it accordingly is an important part of balance, if not everyday life. However, as you age, your ability to process this information lessens. Cognitive ability slows, requiring more focus and subsequently taxing your energy. When more focus is needed to maintain your normal functions, it becomes easier to have a lapse and experience a fall.

Eyesight is also a major component of the sensory information that you use to stay balanced. Vision naturally declines as you get older, which in turn makes it more difficult to stay upright. Your depth perception and peripheral vision may worsen, making it harder to identify and avoid obstacles while you are walking or going down stairs. It is also common for older people to become sensitive to glare, which can distract you or make it hard to see your surroundings.

Keeping Your Footing

Besides the functions in your brain that keep you balanced, your physical traits also play a role. Getting older causes your bones to shrink and become more fragile, and your muscles and joints to get weaker and lose flexibility. The lack of stability can make it harder to catch yourself and have enough strength to stay standing if you take a false step.

Arthritis is a common condition that older people suffer from, and this can also negatively affect your balance, as it makes you more likely to place your feet in the wrong position because you are in pain. This can start a cycle of inactivity, where you become less likely to be active and work your muscles and joints because of the pain or fear of falling, which only quickens the deterioration process.

Going Inside Your Head

The final component of balance is the vestibular system, which involves balance receptors located in your inner ear that detect your movement. The structure of your ear changes as you grow older, which affects the operation of these receptors. This will affect your coordination and make you more susceptible to falls.

Compounding this process are certain medications commonly taken by elderly people that can diminish the effectiveness of the vestibular system. These medications include aspirin, quinine and some diuretics and antibiotics. Because these medications are essential, it’s important to take steps to preserve balance despite their side effects.

Slowing the Process

While your body’s balance may lessen as you age, there are still methods you can use for imbalance treatment. Participating in physical therapy can help strengthen your muscles and maintain flexibility. Exercises like Tai Chi and yoga place an emphasis on balance by having you move in unusual positions, and your physical therapist can advise which is safest and most effective for you. In addition, chiropractic treatment can help improve function and coordination. Supplements, like Vitamin D and calcium, can be utilized as part of a detailed nutritional plan to keep your bones strong. There are plenty of options you can use to maintain your balance, so contact your healthcare provider to see which ones are right for you.

Seek Balance Solutions Today

The best way to keep your sensory, motor and vestibular systems in prime shape is to actively work on them, even before you start to experience poor balance. If you want to learn more, contact us at AIMS Clinic in East Brunswick, New Jersey to schedule an appointment and start your imbalance treatment.

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