Thursday, February 20, 2014

Flynn and Gebhardt: Reduce fall risk by improving strength, balance

From:  The Coloradoan

Balance: If you don’t use it, you will lose it. This is especially true as we age.

As our balance decreases, we walk with shorter strides, a shuffling pattern, and with our head and eyes looking down because we feel unsteady. These changes occur gradually over time and increase the likelihood of a fall.

You might have even noticed these signs in yourself or in a loved one. About one out of every three adults older than age 65 falls every year. Falls continue to be a seriousproblem for the aging population. A fall can lead to hip and wrist fractures, extended periods of immobilization and reduced confidence with walking. This frequently can create a downward spiral leading to serious health consequences, including early death. About one-third of those who fall fear future falls, causing a limitation in activity, which actually increases the risk of falling. However, the good news is that you can improve your balance and reduce your risk of fall-related injuries regardless of your age.



While losing strength and balance is often blamed on aging, the facts show that this is largely due to a decrease in general activity and not appropriately exercising your large muscles. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle makes for weak muscles and poor balance. Regardless of your age, you always can make significant improvements in your strength and balance without spending a lot of time exercising. Many exercises can be incorporated easily at home in your daily routine.

Medicare has taken a proactive approach to screening for and preventing falls. Medicare recognizes that fall prevention programs can significantly reduce costs by preventing serious injuries associated with falls. Medicare relies on physical therapists to assess fall risk. Your physical therapist can administer balance and fall assessment tests. More importantly, your physical therapist can provide you with a simple program to reduce your fall risk and help you maintain an active and independent lifestyle. Examples of exercises that assist in fall prevention can be found atwww.ColPTs.com.

If you have noticed some of the signs mentioned above, consider checking in with your physical therapist for a fall risk assessment. Additionally, with Valentine’s Day approaching, this can be a great opportunity to reach out and help the ones you love. If you have noticed a loved one walking with more of a shuffle or appearing unsteady walking across the lawn, encourage them to get a fall risk assessment. A simple assessment, along with a basic balance program, can help you or a loved one maintain health and independence for years.

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