Finding Your Balance
Staying physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health at any age. Regular exercise has many short-term and long-term benefits, from improving sleep quality to preventing chronic diseases.
There are many unique types of exercises, such as boosting endurance, strength, or cardio health. Engaging in exercise activities, especially those that promote balance and coordination, are essential healthy habits for seniors.
Balance is more than a handy skill for tightrope walking. Enhancing balance through physical therapy services gives seniors more freedom to move independently.
But, since balance is essential, why is it a problem in older adults?
Balance disorders can make everyday tasks more challenging. Impaired balance can cause you to stagger when you walk or slip when you try to stand up. You might experience other symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation
- Dizziness or vertigo (a spinning sensation)
- Falling (or feeling likely to fall)
- Lightheadedness or a floating sensation
- Nausea or vomiting
Short-term balance problems can also cause changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety levels. Long-term balance problems can lead to fatigue and depression.
Everyone is prone to some clumsiness or the occasional balance slip. Feeling temporarily unsteady can sometimes be easily fixed by getting enough sleep or refueling with a nutritious snack. But recurring or intense events can indicate a health problem.
Asking yourself some key questions can help you identify if you have a balance problem. But, of course, you should talk to your doctor if you answer “yes” to any of these questions.
- Do I frequently feel unsteady?
- Do I feel like the room is spinning around me (even briefly)?
- Do I feel like I’m moving while standing or sitting still?
- Do I frequently lose my balance and fall (or stumble)?
- Do I feel as if I’m falling?
- Do I feel lightheaded or like I might faint?
- Does my vision become blurred?
- Do I ever feel disoriented?
- Do I lose my sense of time, place, or identity?
Causes of Balance Problems
Balance problems are one of the most common reasons older adults seek medical assistance. Although seniors are more likely to experience balance problems, aging is not the cause. Instead, chronic illness, inner ear problems, and circulatory system diseases are common causes. Additionally, some medications can affect balance.
Blood Pressure Changes
Multiple conditions can cause blood pressure changes. Healthy blood pressure is a happy medium, as too high or too low blood pressure can lead to health issues, including cardiovascular disease.
Orthostatic hypotension (or postural hypotension) is a form of sudden low blood pressure common in older adults. It happens when standing after sitting or lying down, causing dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
Common risk factors include dehydration, prolonged bed rest, heart problems, and nervous system disorders.
Balance problems related to high blood pressure can improve by increasing physical activity, practicing a healthy diet, reducing salt intake, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Low blood pressure symptoms can be managed by drinking more fluids, avoiding alcohol, and standing more slowly.
Your health care team can offer more personalized treatment and lifestyle suggestions. For example, some conditions may be treated with medication or altering your current medicines.
Neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, can cause balance or coordination problems in the later stages of the disease. Other chronic medical conditions, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and nerve abnormalities, also increase the risk of falls.
Another notable example affecting balance is vestibular disorders. The vestibular system, located in your inner ear, is responsible for helping us stay balanced. Inner ear problems, such as ear infections, cause disrupt our balance. Although strengthening your muscles can improve balance, don’t forget to care for your ears!
Benefits of Balance Exercises
While medications may be required to treat some balance problems, physical therapy is another beneficial option. It’s never too late to boost your health with exercise. Whether you’re starting from scratching or enhancing your current routine, adding balance activities or balance physical therapy can help you stay on your feet.
The key is to do something physical every day. Doing too much and feeling overwhelmed—or causing any injury—can be discouraging. Instead, set goals you can accomplish. Success can inspire you to keep up with your routine or try something slightly more challenging when the time is right.
Seniors should talk to their healthcare team before trying new activities. Your doctor may also have some good ideas about balance or coordination exercises. Joining a class or group focused on your age group or customized for you can make it easier to improve your balance at a healthy pace.
Balance exercises can build strength, stability, and confidence. Additionally, balance exercises can support mental functioning, including memory and spatial cognition.
While following a program or the instructions of a therapist can offer more personalized suggestions, some typically balance exercises include:
- Chair yoga
- Tai chi
- Leg raises
- Walking heel-to-toe
Practicing healthy habits is easier with support. A close-knit community with access to more activity variety can make your first step towards better balance much easier.
Seniors joining our community can enjoy a range of exercises to help them stay healthy and active, whether they thrive in a group or like to practice solo. We make movement fun with our engaging programming.
Schedule a visit with Butler Street Senior Living to learn more about our values and high-quality care. Contact us today!