Improving Balance Is Essential To Avoiding Falls

Being injured in a fall is a very real possibility for our senior citizens. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), one-third of this age group falls each year, resulting in more than 700,000 hospital stays and 250,000 hip fractures.

Many times falls are related to balance problems. As we age, certain conditions can cause our sense of balance to deteriorate. These problems include neuropathy or nerve damage in the feet, inner ear problems, failing vision, circulation or heart problems or arthritis. Some long-term diseases affecting the nervous system such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis can also cause balance issues.

The Right Footwear Can Boost Balance

Your choice of shoes is a very important factor in balance improvement. Here are a few easy tips to follow when buying new shoes:

  • Try shoes on with your own socks and be sure to take your orthotics with you.
  • Shop when feet are largest – later in the day – and ask the salesperson to measure both feet.
  • Don’t expect that you can “break in” shoes that aren’t immediately comfortable. Take a walk around the store and say no to any that aren’t comfy.

Toss any of your old shoes that can’t pass the 1-2-3 test:

  1. The sides of the heels should be stiff when pressed.
  2. Bend the shoe to look for some – but not too much – flexibility in the toe area.
  3. Make sure the shoe doesn’t twist too much when twisting from toe and heel.

Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM would be happy to meet with you to discuss how the best shoe style for your gait can affect your balance.

Try These Exercises To Slow Declining Balance

Certain exercises can help improve your balance. Tai chi, a type of martial art, promotes many health benefits including reducing stress and improving balance.

Try these exercises (with your doctor’s approval) to improve the control and balance of your body:

  • While looking straight ahead, take steps heel to toe in a straight line.
  • Hold on to a chair and stand on one foot, holding for 10 seconds. Repeat 15 times then try the other foot.
  • Pick a spot ahead of you, stretch your arms to each side and walk to it. With each step, lift your back leg and pause for a second or two. Repeat 15 times, alternating legs.

The National Institute of Health Senior Health website has these and other exercises to help improve balance.

Read related information in our blog on reducing the risk of falls for seniors.

Take Action To Improve Your Balance

Trying these easy exercises and changing up your footwear can start you on the road to better balance. For any foot or ankle pain, visit Dr. Alexopoulos, board certified podiatrist for help. Call us at our Chicago office at (773) 561-8100 or request an appointment via the website. Healthy feet are the first step to good balance.