Keeping Your Balance at Every Age.

Balance and your Bones

Having good balance is very important for people with Osteopenia and/or Osteoporosis. Most fractures (broken bones) occur when a person has a fall. This is why it is so important to prevent falls.

Your balance can be affected by many different issues. Your ears, eyes, muscles and joints all play a very important role in helping you to maintain your balance. The better your balance is, the less risk you have of falling and breaking a bone/s.

Some medications can place you at higher risk of having a fall, therefore it is important to find out if any medication you are on can affect your balance. Some diseases can also place a person at risk of having falls.

You need good balance to be able to walk without falling. A person’s balance is controlled by signals to the brain from your inner ear, your eyes and your sensory system (which is your skin, muscle and joints).

Your Ears

As you age, you may notice a change in your ability to hear clearly. In the inner ear, your balance system contains three semi-circular canals that contain fluid and sensors that detect different types of movement of your head. Example: Your head moving from side to side, tilting of your head or moving your head up and down.

Your middle ears contain semi-circular canals that are lined with sensory hair cells, fluid and crystals. When your head moves, hair cells in the semi-circular canals send nerve impulses to your brain, through the acoustic nerve. The nerve impulses are processed in the brain which let us know where we are in space or if our body is moving.   This system gives us information on our head and body movements that help us to maintain our balance.

Medications and some disease’s/illnesses can affect the function of your middle-ear. Example: You could experience ringing in one of your ears or a sensation of the room spinning, which is called vertigo. It is very important if you have had these issues that you have it investigated. The good news is that there are some fall assessments clinics. Some Chartered Physiotherapists also have specific training in this area.

You should get your balance assessed if you have any of the following:

·         You have had a fall or near fall already

·         Issues with dizziness (Vertigo)

·         Your walking pattern has changed

·         You have been diagnosed with a disease affecting your vestibular system or it is suspected that you have an issue with it.

·         You do not feel steady on your feet and are apprehensive about falling.

 

Eyes

Changes in your vision happen as you age. You can develop a Cataract/s or glaucoma. Your eyes may take longer to adjust to changes in the light and glare. Changes in your vision can affect your ability to judge the depth of stairs or curbs.

Keeping lights on in your home at night not only helps to prevent you from tripping or banging into objects but also can help to prevent your home from being broken into. A thief would usually break into a dark home that looks unoccupied, versus a home with light on, as they do not know how many people are in the home.

Your eyes help with your balance; therefore if you are walking around a dark home, you are placing yourself at risk of having a fall. It is very important to have regular eye exams, especially if you notice a change in your vision. If you do wear Bi-focal glasses, always take them off when you are going up and down steps. 

Muscles and Joints

Strong muscles and flexible joints play a major role in you keeping your balance. When you stand without moving, your ankles actually help you to keep your balance. If your ankle muscle and joints are weak, stiff or painful this can affect your balance. A Chartered Physiotherapist could access this problem and give you appropriate stretches and exercises.

Medical Conditions and Medications that can increase your risk of Falling.

Some are the disease itself, some are the medication and some are the secondary effects of the medication. This is not the full list of medical conditions and medications that could affect your balance

·         Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Amputations, Dementia, high or low blood pressure, Diabetes

  • LOW VITAMIN D LEVELS
  • Sleeping tablets
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Blood pressure tablets
  • Muscle relaxers or tranquilizers
  • Some Pain medicines
  • Some Heart medication
  • Some Allergy medicines
  • Anti-seizure medicines
  • Diabetes medication

Suggestions for you

·         Get a list of all your medications from your pharmacist and ask them to mark off which ones could affect your balance.

  • Review the list of medicines you are taking with your doctor at least once a year.
  • If you are taking a medication or have a medical condition that could put you at higher risk to have a fall, a Chartered Physiotherapist could be able to give you suggestions on how to reduce your risk of falling.   
  • Do not ever stop, change or skip a medication without talking to your Doctor.
  • If you are discharged from a hospital, ensure to have your medication list reviewed.

 

The following statistics explain why fall prevention is so important -

 

·         20% of people over the age of 60 who fracture a hip, will pass away within six months to one year due to secondary complications.

·         50% of people over 60 years of age, who fracture a hip, will become dependent on family or friends to take care of them or will need to go into a nursing home.

·         Only 30% of people over the age of 60, who fracture a hip actually regain their Independence.

·         90% of hip fractures are due to Osteoporosis

·         From age 70 and older, a person is 25 times more likely to sustain a hip fracture.

·         Between the ages of 65 to 74, 62% of accidents are related to people falling.

·         82% of accidents to people over the age of 75 are fall related.

 

If you have any concerns, please contact the Irish Osteoporosis Society at 01 637 5050

Keeping Your Balance at Every Age