When I was young, I loved gymnastics. I wasn’t the best on my team, but my coach said I was the bravest! How I wish I had that kind of balance and stability back in my body today! in our youth, our muscles, brain, inner ear and sight all contribute to good balance, which is the reason the average age for an Olympic gymnast is 15. As we age, these skills start to decline. If we choose to be inactive, the process is accelerated at an alarming rate. Have you noticed that you may need to use the handrail on the stairs more often? Are you having trouble with things that were at one time simple, such as coming to a stop on your bike or getting out of the bathtub?
John 21:18 says, Truly, truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressedyourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. (NIV 2011).
Bummer! This is sad but true. As we age, we become more and more dependent on those around us. I want to put that off as long as possible and so do thousands of others in our generation.This is the reason BASE (balance and stability exercises) is so popular right now. Most of you, like me, are of the Baby Boomer generation, and we are fighting tooth and nail for our independence!
Studies show the most common loss of independence comes as a result of a fall. A fall is always embarrassing regardless of age or who is watching.
My most famous fall happened at one of my daughter’s basketball games. Being the coffee addict that I am, I came into the gym with my large cup of coffee, my purse and my camera. The rest of my family was sitting at the very top of the bleachers, of course, so here I go. I negotiated the first step rather well, but something happened on the second step and down I went—coffee flying everywhere. The worst part of the fall was probably the loud BANG that sounded when I fell through the bleachers. Needless to say, it was not my finest moment. I really do not want to give up my coffee at basketball games, so I need to consistently be working on my balance and core strength. I don’t want to have someone take me by the hand and lead me up the bleachers. Balance and stability exercise is becoming more popular for all populations. The reality is this:
- The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men.
- Annually, falls are reported by one-third of all people 65 and older.
- Two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within six months.
- Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 or over.
- Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year. The elderly account for seventy-five percent of deaths from falls.
- More than half of all fatal falls involve people 75 or over, only four percent of the total population.
- Among people 65 to 69, one out of every 200 falls results in a hip fracture, and among those 85 or over, one fall in 10 results in a hip fracture.
- One-fourth of those who fracture a hip die within six months of the injury.
- The most profound effect of falling is the loss of independent functioning. Twenty-five percent of those who fracture a hip require life-long nursing care. About 50 percent of the elderly, who sustain a fall-related injury, will be discharged to a nursing home rather than return home.
- Most falls do not result in serious injury. However, there is often a psychological impact. Approximately 25 percent of community-dwelling people 75 or over unnecessarily restrict their activities because of fear of falling.
- The majority of the lifetime cost of injury for people 65 or over can be attributed to falls.
So how do I prevent a fall? First, we need to identify the number one risk factor:
Osteoporosis is caused by bones losing density and becoming porous and brittle, resulting in a fracture. Osteoporosis can be caused by calcium and Vitamin D deficiency and lack of physical activity, especially load-bearing activity.
- Make sure you are getting enough calcium. 1,500 mg daily is recommended for postmenopausal women. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, fish and shellfish, selected vegetables such as broccoli, soybeans, collards and turnip greens, tofu and almonds, which are all part of the FP4H Live It Food Plan.
- Make sure you are getting sufficient vitamin D through sunlight and possibly a supplement. Vitamin D is helpful in the absorption of calcium into the body.
- Perform weight-bearing exercises consistently, at least two times a week. These exercises can be done with weights or elastic resistance. When we lift weights or strike our foot on the ground while walking, we are stimulating bone growth. Osteoporosis is something we may be able to prevent if we commit to strength training just two times a week.
There are other things that contribute to the increase risk of a fall. Impaired vision and an unsafe environment are the next risk factors. Get your eyes checked regularly, and be sure you do not climb bleachers with your hands full.
There are several websites with helpful information and I have provided those for you below. Also, FP4H has an excellent DVD with great balance and stability exercise Strength & Flexibility found here.
I am determined to stay strong as long as I can. I know there will be a day when the verse I quoted early may come to be true for me, but in the meantime my home BASE will be strong!
- Administration on Aging: http://www.aging.com
- Aging Network Services: www.agingnets.com
- American Academy of Family Physicians: www.aafp.org
- American Association of Retired Persons: www.aarp.org
- Andrus Gerontology Center: www.usc.edu/dept/gero
- Elderweb: www.elderweb.com
- Home Modification Resource Center: www.homemods.org
- Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com
- National Council on Aging: www.ncoa.org
- National Institute on Aging: www.nih.gov/nia
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: www.nof.org
- National Safety Council: www.nsc.org
- Senior Alternatives: www.senioralternatives.org
- Senior Friendly: www.senioralternatives.org