5 Most Surprising Age-related Health Changes

Balance and Falling Become Serious Problems

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.