Balance problems as we age, will become a lot more common whether we like it or not for one simple reason; our body systems.
Our body systems are starting to slow down in some fashion as we age, and in order for us to keep and maintain uninterrupted balance, all of them must function properly.
These systems are much more complex than most of us realize when you really start to break it down. It includes our muscles, most of our bones, our joints, as well as our vision.
However, balance problems also involve the nerves, heart and blood vessels, as well as perhaps the most important component; our inner ear.
If there is an issue in our inner ear, all bets are off and it could begin to become a real issue.
We have all experienced at different point in our lives, some sort of balance problems. They have made us light headed and dizzy, or worse yet, the sense of floating.
However, it does not always happen when you are walking or standing. It can also affect you sitting or lying down, as it all depends on what the underlying cause is.
Even if we are healthy in most every other aspect as we age, we will not have the same balance control we used to have and there are several reasons why.
Balance problems as we age have several potential causes and they include some of the following
However, by far and away the most common cause of balance issues in seniors is referred to as the vestibular system, better known as our inner-ear.
Our inner ears contain a myriad of very small structures that when combined make up the vestibular system. This system is commonly known as your balance command center.
This command center have fluid-filled round type canals that contain not only tiny hairs, they also contain several nerves.
Together, they give us a “sense of position” of our head, allowing us to balance.
However, they also help control our body movements and the natural flow of gravity. If these nerve sensors slow or fail in any way, you begin to lose the sense of gravity,
Once we pass the magic age of 55 years old, we are no longer producing the same number of these critical nerve cells we once did.
And the more we age, the less they produce.
There are several potential conditions that are associated with slowing or weakening of our inner ears strength, and they include the following.
Balance problems as we age begin with Vertigo and it can be very gradual or it can seem like it hits you all at one time.
If you experience it, you will have the feeling that everything around you is spinning. However, it is not; you have temporarily lost your sense of gravity.
BPPV is actually known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, and this affects the calcium found in your inner ear.
Our inner ears in addition to the hairs and the nerves, also contain calcium crystals.
If these crystals for whatever reason break loose, they travel to where they do not belong and this interrupt’s the messages being sent to your brain.
This form of Vertigo does not come on gradually-instead it hits you very suddenly. As we get into our 70’s and 80’s, it is a lot more severe in causing balance problems.
The symptoms with this can be blurred vision, rapid side to side eye movements, as well as severe dizziness.
What makes this so challenging is that these symptoms can go just as fast as they hit you.
Next on the list of balance problems in seniors is Labyrinthitis, which is where our inner ears can become severely inflamed and swollen.
This form of vertigo does not come and go quickly, instead it can and often does last for several days.
However, this inner ear malfunction is generally the result of a viral infection of some kind. It can also be the result of smoking, stress, allergies as well as alcohol abuse.
The symptoms associated with Labyrinthitis can be nausea, a temporary loss of hearing, as well as severe dizziness.
Next on the list of balance problems in seniors in Meniere’s disease, and this condition is not as common as we age, as it can hit any age group.
It is the result of a buildup of fluids in our inner ear, and is a long term threat to your balance.
When it attacks, the loss of balance and dizziness can last for several minutes to several hours, and the real danger of this condition is that it can and often does result in some form of hearing loss.
It can also cause tinnitus where you will hear buzzing sounds, ringing sounds, as well as roaring sounds that can become almost unbearable.
As we age and experience balance problems, there are several very effective and safe exercises we can do to improve our balance.
They include the following
There are several very simple and safe balance exercises that you can do to improve and maintain it, but also build up self-confidence if you suffered from any of the these attacks.
The first of these is weight shifts where you simply put your feet hip width apart equally. You then shift your weight to the right and lift your left foot. You than do the same thing but the opposite,
Start with 10-15 of these twice a day and then increase it as you gain confidence.
Single leg balance is where you do the same balance to start with and then put your hands on your hips and lift the left leg for 30 seconds, then do the exact same thing with the right leg.
By doing these simple exercises you are sending communications to your brain about “balance “ and helping build some of the newer nerves you need.
However, by far and away the best exercises for balance problems are Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
These names may sound funny to you, but they have been used for centuries by people our age to help with balance.
Both are slow and very deliberate movements of your body with meditation and breathing exercises. Not only does it help improve your standing strength, it does wonders for your balance.
Both are almost like a very slow posture type of dance that also helps to reduce stress and improve memory.
You can find either in most every city in the world geared toward people our age with one goal in mind--improve balance problems.
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