When you think about balance the last on your mind might be your own balance. We are more likely to think about other people or older people in our lives who might struggle with balance, but we rarely think about how balance plays a part in our lives. When we do start to think about it we may be able to think of times that we felt dizzy, lost our balance and fell, or times where we catch ourselves (maybe both literally and figuratively) saying I “have no balance.” While balance may seem like something you don’t want to think or worry about just yet, there is no denying that balance is something we all need in order to live our most independent lives.
According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls each year. In 2014, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, resulting in 7 million injuries. Falls are very closely related to our balance. If we lose our balance we can stumble and fall, if we are struggling stepping over or maneuvering around objects, it can be harder for us than those who have stronger balance. If you find you are falling more than average, or really falling at all, it can be a warning sign about your balance. The good news is, balance is like a muscle, you can improve it over time with certain exercises that can improve your strength, balance and confidence!
Self-balance checks are different for everyone depending on their current balance stage. Yet, maybe people start to notice a change in balance when they can no longer perform tasks as well as they used to. If you can no longer balance well standing on one foot, when you used to be able to do so easily, that’s a change. If you find you can no longer climb the stairs without holding a railing that may also be a sign that your balance isn’t what it used to be. Maybe you used to be able to walk toe-to-heel (tightrope walking) and that is something you really can’t safely do anymore. That is a clue that your balance has changed as well. If you never try balancing on one foot, climbing stairs unassisted or tightrope style walking, you may want to check in and see if you can do so safely, while making sure you have something safe around you for support. Do not practice balance with things that can easily move – like chairs on wheels, tables that can slide or shoes that don’t have flat bottoms.
There are also other things that factor in with your balance that you may not have thought of. First of all, hearing. If you are noticing a change in your balance it very well may be a great idea to get a hearing test. Our ears have a lot to do with our balance. Secondly, hydration! Lack of proper hydration can cause us not to feel like ourselves, cause dizziness and take away from our balance. Making sure to stay properly hydrated year round will help with your balance. Third, if you are struggling with any feet issues, toe pain, heel pain, and lack of sensation in your feet, this is something you want to address sooner than later. While your foot pain or feeling loss may not be affecting your balance just yet, it is best to be proactive when it comes to foot care. Lastly, migraines can also affect your balance and cause more falls. If you are living with migraines or suddenly experience more headaches it’s something you should always explore with your physician.
We are hosting a FREE Balance Workshop and Balance Bingo at The Wellness Center that will be administered by our Physical Therapy department on Tuesday September 24th from 1:00-3:00 pm. This welcomes everyone and anyone to participate. Feel free to give us a call at 334-5566 to let us know you are coming so we can make sure to have enough staff and materials on hand. The Wellness Center will also be at the Better Living Expo at The Elks on Wednesday September 25th from 1:00-3:00 pm with information on balance as well. The free event will also have other local resources for “better living,” refreshments and more! There is no age or physicality requirement so join us – all are welcome!
As we recognize National Balance Awareness Week, take some time to check in with yourself and your loved ones on balance. It’s not about looking for burdens or trying to point fingers, it’s about keeping yourself and your loved ones as safe and independent as possible! Here at North Country Hospital we believe that balance is one of the greatest factors in living your best life. We hope to see you at one of our balance events and if not maybe in a Tai Chi, Qu Gong or Yoga class soon that also focuses on strength, balance and independence. It’s September and as the leaves start to fall we don’t want you to do the same! Be balance smart and proactive to stay safe, and stay steady!
Director of The Wellness Center