Losing Your Balance

Balance

It is easy to take a spill during a moment of inattention and even if you have strong bones, they can break during a nasty fall.

By: Natasha Morgan

When the Director called me from the Senior’s Home to let me know that my mother had fallen and taken to the hospital, I was worried. She had never gone anywhere without her walker and at a ripe age of 84 she moved well using the aid that she called her “Volkswagen”.

I hurried to the hospital to learn that my mom had broken her hip and would need surgery. The doctors were reluctant to perform the operation as the anesthetic can have severe consequences on the elderly. However, since she was in severe pain, there was no other option.

As it turned out they were right. She came through the surgery but spent the rest of her three-week life in the hospital conscious but unable to speak and breathing with the help of an oxygen mask. Finally, in excruciating pain, she gave up the struggle in the wee hours of one morning.

Doctors advised us that since she was suffering from osteoporosis, she either (a) fell because a bone broke or (b) lost her balance, fell and broke a bone.

Why would she have lost her balance? She always seemed very steady to me.

More research into “Balance Problems of the Elderly” I learned that the ear contains sensory organs that govern both your hearing and your balance. The inner ear shelters the organ of hearing, the cochlea, which translates sound into electrical signals, and the semi-circular canals making up the vestibular system that protects our balance.

Since the overall maintenance of balance is a function shared with the the vestibular system by the brain and the eye, both of which undergo degenerative age changes as well, you can see why aging itself naturally puts you at an increased risk for falling.

As a Baby-Boomer, I am still active and fairly strong. Signs of osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) are creeping in but increased intake of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium are keeping my bones from deteriorating.

I have become much more aware that there is a very real risk of becoming less steady as I age. It is easy to take a spill during a moment of inattention and even if you have strong bones, they can break if you should have a nasty fall.

Aging is unavoidable and the only protection I have is eating well and keeping fit which are well within my control.

For more information on staying healthy after 50, read The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife & Beyond by Janet Horn, MD and Robin H. Miller, MD.

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