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The ageing body and falls

The ageing body and falls
There are various changes which occur to our bodies as we get older. Here we will see those specific changes which could contribute to our risks of falls, but also learn how we can age more healthfully to maintain our gait or balance.
Although the number of brain cells declines with age, we cope very well with this. However, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and alcohol all speed up this process, which can cause damage. This damage can affect our walking, balance, and ability to react to a loss of balance. We can prevent this by leading a healthy lifestyle and, in particular, limiting our alcohol intake.
There are many age-related changes in the eye which can contribute to falls. The most important ones include reduced ability to see changes in contrast– for example, where a step stops or starts; slow pupils, which reduce vision in dimly lit areas; reduced peripheral vision; and the need for spectacles. We can keep our eyes healthy, though, through regular visits to the optometrist, protecting our eyes from the sun, avoiding bi- and varifocal lenses, and allowing extra time for our eyes to adjust when moving from bright to dim, or vice versa.
As we get older, our blood vessels and our hearts get stiffer. This can cause problems controlling our blood pressure such that we become more at risk of sudden drops in our blood pressure even if we have high blood pressure. We can prevent this, though, through staying hydrated, not smoking, and staying active.
With age, our muscles shrink and become weaker. This makes it harder for our muscles to maintain balance, thereby increasing the risk of falls.
A lifetime of use causes wear and tear in our joints. This can cause changes to our walking style, and reduce the nerve signals from our joints to our brain– an important process in maintaining balance. Keeping active and maintaining a healthy weight helps keep our joints healthy.
Signals in older nerves become slower, but this alone does not usually cause problems. Nerves become less able to repair themselves, and suffer more damage from arthritic bones and injuries. We can prevent our nerves from slowing down by stimulating them through physical activity. Stiffness and pain in the feet result from a lifetime of supporting our body weight. In addition, the skin loses its feeling, which is important for maintaining balance. We can keep our feet healthy by staying active to prevent stiffness, reporting any problems to a professional, and wearing sensible shoes.
This animation will show us what happens to the body as it ages, and how these changes can contribute to falls.
However, there are some very simple things that we can do to age healthily, no matter what age we are now.
Look out for these useful tips during the animation to see if there is anything you can use to prevent falls and keep healthy.
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Ageing Well: Why Older People Fall

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