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Brain Change: Keeping your Balance

Brain Change: Keeping your Balance
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Brain Change: Keeping your Balance

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Featured in Tyler Today Magazine
By: Leslie Fossey, Marketing Director, Azalea Orthopedics

Losing your balance can be quite scary. There is nothing quite like free-falling down the stairs or tripping over a toy to send you sailing in the air. As we grow older our brain actually changes, making us even more susceptible to falls.

There are many reasons why people lose their balance, for instance accidents, medication, inner ear issues and diseases. But as we age, the way the brain communicates with each side of the brain affects our reaction time to a fall. The brain, even while we are resting, is communicating or doing what is called “cross-talk.” Studies show that the older we get the more cross-talk happens, and in certain instances, like decreased reaction time, that talk seems to be more confusing than helpful.

Another important factor is muscle mass. As we age we also lose muscle tone and falling then becomes more serious. The Center for Disease Prevention studies show that one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury or death. Falls are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. The World Health Organization estimates as of 2010 that 540,000 people die from falls each year.

The good news is that just because we all get older, it doesn’t have to be our fate to react slowly and increase our risk for injury. Fall prevention and physical activity can help to counteract the effects of agerelated degeneration.

Six Steps to Prevent Falls, From the Mayo Clinic

1. Make an appointment with your doctor to go over medication and health concerns about falling.

2. Keep moving. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

3. Wear sensible shoes. Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. Look for shoes that are the proper size with laces and medium soles.

4. Remove home hazards. Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards.

5. Light up your living space. Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Use night lights and light up the stairways.

6. Use assistive devices. Use a cane or walker to keep you steady. Use hand rails on both sides of stairways, nonslip treads for bare wood steps, raised toilet seat or one with armrests, and grab bars for the shower or tub.

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