Part of the aging process in humans includes the gradual loss of muscle strength, vision, sensory perception, and hearing—all things that contribute to our ability to balance. As a result, falling is a common and alarming problem among older adults. According to the CDC, one out of three Americans who are at least sixty-five years old will fall over the course of a year. Younger people might be able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off after falling, but for older folks, it can be debilitating. Falls are the primary cause of injury deaths among the sixty-five-and-older crowd. And the danger only increases with age—adults ages eighty-five and up who’ve fallen are four times more likely to get put in a nursing home for a year or longer.
Balance is controlled to a large extent by the vestibular system (inner ear). For those of you that have had “sea sickness” and/or inner ear infections, you know exactly what it feels like to lose your sense of balance.
Studies have shown that balance is negatively impacted by poor weight control. Data from these studies reveal that even though muscle is lost with weight loss, there are positive impacts on balance accompanying the weight loss. Data from these studies show an almost 80% improvement in balance caused by successful weight control.
There are many reasons why controlling weight is so important. Add “balance” to this list. Falls can be catastrophic as we age and having better balance reduces the risk of these falls.