Optimize Your Health
I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!
I am frequently asked my opinion about whether barefoot running is a good idea. My response is always the same. I tell them the question they should be more concerned about is if they can squat all the way down to the ground with their feet straight ahead and heels flat to the ground and then stand back up again with assistance. If you are UNABLE to do that it is likely that you will need a LIFE ALERT DEVICE in your golden years. Why, you ask? For those of you who know where I am going with this and you are thinking...I am young this article is not for me...Hold on, keep reading. These test apply to you as well. If you are young and already unable to perform this task your future stability is at risk as well. Remember we are all aging...just at different rates depending on your fitness level.
As you age the chances of a fall increases exponentially. There are 3 reasons why the elderly fall...Remember the balance test from the March article when you stood on one leg, then closed your eyes and lost your balance? What happens to your vision as you age? Our brain requires visual input for balance. Your eyes tell you where you are in space. If your hearing declines you have now lost your human sonar. You can tell if someone is talking in front of you, behind you or to the side of you when your eyes are closed. So, we have 2 senses to help our brain orient us in space. The third, are your feet. Believe it or not there are more sensory neurons in your hands and feet than in your sexual organs. If these neurons are compromised by diabetes, stroke and spinal impingement it will affect the nerves in your feet. Combine these balance deficiencies with muscle weakness and it becomes the perfect storm for a FALL.
Obviously, falls can put your life in danger. Unfortunately, cardiovascular fitness levels are reduced by this point as well. In 1999, Dr. Claudio Gil Arauj developed an additional test that has been associated with life expectancy. Only God knows how long we have on this earth, however, I am sure you are familiar with the frequency of hip fractures as you age. But did you know that there is a 5 fold and 8 fold risk of death within the first 3 months after a hip fracture for women and men? Two years out from the hip fracture still carries 2 and 2.5 increased risk of death respectively for women and men. So, here is Dr. Claudio Gil Arauj's test to give you insight into your current state of health. Dr. Arauj's study evaluated patients between the ages of 51 and 80 years of age.
The test is scored on a point scale between 1 and 10 (5 points for sitting, 5 more points for standing back up). Each time you use an arm or knee for helping yourself balancing during the test, one point is subtracted from 10 possible points. Half a point is subtracted each time you lose balance or when the fluidity of the feet becomes clumsy.
Those who scored less than 8 points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years (De Brito et al. 2012). Those who scored three points or less were five times more likely to die within that same time period. Regardless of your age, the test should provide a useful benchmark for your overall health. If you’re younger than 50 and have trouble with this test, it ought to be a wake-up call.
Remember what the flight attendant said...PLEASE put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. We have a tendency to put our spouses and children first. Illness affects the whole family! Take care of yourself! Keep up your strength, range of motion and brain function. YOU CAN PREDICT THE FUTURE OF YOUR HEALTH.
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