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Balance and Falling Become Serious Problems

Staving off Age-related Injury

Doctors recommend maintaining a weight-bearing exercise regimen to help decrease an older person's chance of injury from falling. Also, ensuring there's enough calcium and vitamin C in the diet, getting screened for osteoporosis -- a condition resulting in thinning of bone tissue and density -- and making sure medicine combinations don't result in bone loss are a few more ways to stave off age-related injuries [sources: CDC; U.S. National Library of Medicine].

Older individuals express fears of falling, and it turns out these instincts are well warranted -- the consequences are more dire and surprising than you think.

With age, the structures in a person's inner ear deteriorate, which not only affects hearing but degrades sense of balance. The semicircular canal in the inner ear helps maintain spatial orientation, so as this structure ages and the eardrum thickens, it throws off the ear's ability to send accurate balance messages to the brain. As a result, people feel less stable and are more likely to fall.

In addition, falling becomes increasingly dangerous for people as they age. Among people 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and nonfatal hospital visits [source: CDC]. Aging people's decreased bone density and muscle mass give rise to their vulnerability to injury and frailty. Breaks and fractures of the hip, spine, pelvis, legs bones and lower arm bones occur most frequently from falls.

Which age-related changes affect eating and sleep? Find out more on the next page.

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