Why get screened for balance problems? Am I at risk?
Over 50% of older adults will experience dizziness or balance problems during their life time.
There are three systems that work together to maintain balance. The most commonly known are foot sensations and vision (central nerveous systems). The third is the vestibular system, which is located in the inner ear and therefore is difficult to test.
In a recently published medical study of nearly 600 emergency room visits due to falls, the vestibular system was impaired in 80% of the fallers.
Working together, all three systems maintain balance similarly to how a tricycle works. Each system contributes a wheel of the tricycle.
When a system is lost due to diabetes (e.g. neuropathy) or poor vision, for example, there are only two wheels left.
Most of us can ride a two-wheeler, but it’s tougher than a tricycle. However, if you unknowingly lose your vestibular system function, you are now riding a unicycle and are most likely falling ( a lot).
How will you test me?
Until recently, it’s been difficult and time-consuming for physicians to detect vestibular-related balance problems in their patients. Luckily, you have the unique opportunity today to be screened using the state-or-the-art Better Balance platform. This FDA approved platform measures your motion while simply standing on its surface with your eyes closed. You will be compared against people your own age with known balance problems to determine if you have normal or abnormal balance.
How serious are falls?
Falls are extremely serious. Among 65 and older in the United States, falls are the leading cause of those who fracture a hip and die within six months of the injury.
25% of those who fracture a hip require life-long nursing care. And about 50% of this group will be discharged to a nursing home rather than return home.
A fractured hip is one of the most serious fall-related injuries because of the slow healing process and long period of rehabilitation required. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “more than 90 percent of hospitalizations for hip fractures are persons 65 and older. Women have a 1 in 7 chance of having a hip fracture during their lifetime. Men have a 1 in 17 chance.”
What can be done?
The number one strategy to prevent falls is early identification according to the CDC.
If you are found to have an abnormal balance score today, we can work with your physician to identify the cause of the problem. In many cases, physical therapy or special orthotics can greatly reduce your risk of falling and allow you to maintain your independence for many more years to come.
Prevent Falls Before They Happen!
Balance Self Test
- Have you fallen more than once?
- Do you take medicine for any of the following diseases: heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, anxiety, or depression?
- Do you feel dizzy or unsteady if you make sudden changes in movement such as bending or turning?
- Have you experienced a stroke or other problem that has affected your balance?
- Do you have numbness or loss of sensation in your legs and/or feet?
- Do you use a walker or need assistance to get around?
- Are you inactive?
- Do you have difficulty sitting down or rising from a seated or lying position?
If you answered “yes” to more than one of the above question, then you could have a balance problem and should consult with your physician.