“Use it or lose it” are true words for many of life’s desires. And that includes your balance. While deteriorating balance is most often a function of age, the reality is that our balance system matures at about 13years of age. According to a study at Johns Hopkins, by the age of 40, more than a third of the population has an inner ear (vestibular) disorder affecting balance. For people over 80 years of age, more than 85 percent have a balance disorder (1).

“Oftentimes a client tries to do a simple task that requires good balance, like getting up fast to answer the phone or turning too quickly in the kitchen and falls,”explains Brian Werner, PT, MPT, physical therapist and balance expert. “Their mind says, ‘I can do this activity,’ but their body and balance system disagree.”

Time won’t fix the issue of poor balance, and brushing it off as just being clumsy is a dangerous mindset.

But there are ways to improve your balance, which prevents your risk of falling.

“The balance system only gets weaker and weaker with disuse, increasing your risk of falling,” says Werner. “Your life depends on improving your balance, particularly if you’re older. About one in five hip fractures turns fatal within a year, so it’s imperative to get your balance assessed and your body properly retrained.”

If you want to prevent falling, exercise helps. But if you’re already balance-challenged, you might be afraid to work out at the gym, take a bike ride, or go for a vigorous walk around the neighborhood.

This is when a physical therapist can help you. A PT can properly evaluate your balance issue, prescribe appropriate exercises, and help you regain your balance and your confidence. For a lot of people, balance disorders can be reduced or eliminated simply by doing specific exercises and getting back in shape.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, one out of three adults aged 65 or older falls each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.

If you don’t talk about it, it will only get worse.

Here are a few tips to prevent falls and stay safe at home from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Mayo Clinic:

  • Keep moving and include gentle exercise daily that is a mix of cardiovascular, balance, and stretching.
  • Review your medications with a health specialist because some may impair sight, walking, and balance. Together, you can map out a plan to keep you safe.
  • Remove hazards from walkways, such as loose rugs, electrical cords, and boxes.
  • Get a balance assessment.

The most common risk factor for falls is increasing age. And like an underused muscle, if you don’t work on your balance as you age, it will simply weaken over time, increasing your risk of falling and being seriously injured.

The good news is – whatever your age –there’s help. You can restore balance in your life with a treatment that’s drug-free, non-invasive, and that works. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about a balance assessment today.

So if you haven’t been balance tested, what are you waiting for? We would be happy to schedule you a FREE balance assessment at any one of our FYZICAL clinics. Use the form on FYZICAL First to request your balance test!

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4069154/