Tips to be fit
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Anyone can trip and be thrown momentarily off balance. Are you able to catch your balance or do you go down? The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in five falls causes a serious injury. Many result in a broken bone or head injury. As we get older falling becomes a serious health issue. Some of these age related issues could be avoided.

As we get older most people tend to lose muscle density. This happens not because you are getting older but because you are not as active. We need at least 30 minutes of strenuous exercise everyday.

To stimulate muscle fibers to grow and increase in strength a demand must be placed on the muscle. Resistance training does this. Calisthenics is a form of resistance training but lifting weights or using workout machines does a more effective job. I recommend using a combination of free weights (dumbbells and barbells) and machines. Using free weights during some exercises will give you more control over the range of motion you go through. Because machines can’t possibly fit every body shape they don’t provide a full range of motion with every exercise. People who don’t have access to resistance training equipment can improvise with sandbags, plastic bottles filled with water or even canned goods.

Impaired nerve functions can also cause balance problems. Your nervous system plays a role in sensing loss of balance early and guiding the self-correcting process. A blunted nerve function in your feet often is due to peripheral neuropathy. This can be caused by diabetes, a vitamin B-12 deficiency or low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) To prevent these issues you should get regular check ups. When telling the doctor why you came into the office, ER or clinic, be specific. Give your doctor as much information as you can. If you have more than one problem, talk first about the one that worries you the most. Prepare a separate history for each problem and strive to make it clear and complete. Present them one at a time so you don’t confuse your doctor. Try to anticipate what the doctor needs to know.

Other medical conditions that can increase your risk of falling:

Urinary tract infection

Dehydration

Anemia

Pneumonia

Heart problems

Stroke

You want to leave your doctor’s office with a plan you understand and can accomplish.

Thinning bones can be an issue too. As we lose bone density because of our inactivity. If thinning bones are not treated you will develop osteoporosis. Bones can be strengthened with exercise.

Ideally, you should work each body part two times a week and never work the same body part without skipping at least one day before working that body part again. If you can do more than 12 repetitions with a given weight you need to increase the amount of weight to effectively work that muscle group. If you can’t do at least eight repetitions with a given weight then you need to reduce the amount of weight you’re using. (exceptions include power lifting and pyramiding bodybuilding programs) You have to tax your body to strengthen it.

Poor nutrition can also contribute to a fall. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that even when older people had normal levels of vitamin D they had a 20% reduction in falls. As we get older nutrition plays an important part in our health. Most nutritional needs of the older person are similar to those of their younger counterpart. Make sure you get in enough calcium, vitamins and iron through a balanced diet. Keep a food diary for two weeks to determine what you need to add to your diet. An active person needs about 10 to 13 calories for every pound of body weight. You should eat 4 to 5 small meals that include 3 to 4 servings of fruits, 3 to 4 servings of vegetables, 2 to 3 servings of whole grains and two servings of proteins everyday.

Poor vision can increase your risk for falling. An Australian study found that in the period after a person got new glasses they were less likely to fall. We all need regular vision exams.

Medications are necessary but we should know the side affects. Some medications can slow reaction time. Your medication can also lower your blood pressure, which can cause weakness, and lightheadedness that can lead to a fall. Always know your medication. Talk with your doctor and your pharmacist about your medication.

Lack of sleep can increase your risk of falling at any age. The amount of sleep needed each night varies among people. Each person needs a particular amount of sleep in order to be fully alert throughout the day. Research has shown that when healthy adults are allowed to sleep unrestricted, the average time slept is 8 to 8.5 hours. Some people need more than that to avoid problem sleepiness; others need less.

If a person does not get enough sleep, even on one night, a “sleep debt” begins to build and increases until enough sleep is obtained. Problem sleepiness occurs as the debt accumulates. Many people do not get enough sleep during the workweek and then sleep longer on the weekends or days off to reduce their sleep debt. If too much sleep has been lost, sleeping in on the weekend may not completely reverse the effects of not getting enough sleep during the week.

Children need the right amount of sleep too. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. School-aged children 6 to 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Preschoolers need to sleep 10 and 13 hours a day including naps. Toddlers need to sleep 11 and 14 hours a day including naps. Babies need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day including naps.

These four factors can make a difference in getting enough sleep:

• Mattress and Foundation

Be sure your mattress and foundation meet your needs for both comfort and support. If you sleep with a partner, your mattress should also allow you both enough space to move easily.

•1Light

Light is one of the body’s most powerful time cues. The rising sun can wake up the brain long before the alarm goes off. A dark room is the most conducive for sleep — day or night.

• Noise

Sudden, loud noises from inside or outside the home can disrupt sleep. Steady, low sounds, such as the whir of a fan or air conditioner, are soothing because they help block out distracting noises.

• Temperature

The ideal bedroom temperature is 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A room that’s too warm or too cool can disrupt comfortable sleep.

Poor home safety can increase your risk of falling. Make sure you unclutter your house. Get rid of rugs that don’t have a rubber backing. Make sure your home is adequately lighted. Make sure you have handrails and they are in good working condition. Remodel shelves, drawers and other fixtures found in your home to eliminate excessive reaching and bending.

Aging doesn’t mean you have to fall.

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed write to: “Tips to be Fit,” P.O. Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or tipstobefit@gmail.com. If you’ve missed an article of “Tips to be Fit” just search “Tips to be Fit.”

This article originally ran on phillytrib.com.

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