Falls are the leading cause of injury among our Senior population.(*2) So, let's define injury... for this blog, injury means that it resulted in limited daily activities or a doctors visit for the Senior who experienced the unintended fall.(*3) There are many factors that can play a role in a fall but I wanted to focus on the impact cardiovascular disease can have and does it increase a Seniors risk for a fall. Most Seniors do not realize how poor their balance has become until they've experienced a fall and they enter the 'danger' zone. Most physicians and therapists will tell you that falling is not a natural part of aging, and I will tell you the same thing.
The fall risk for those that have been diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease is even higher versus those without that diagnosis. In fact, those with cardiovascular disease are at a 60% higher risk for a fall. (*4) Also, the medications that are typically associated with cardiovascular disease play a factor in increasing fall risks. Medications such as (*4):
- Arrhythmia medications
- Anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines)
- Diabetes medications
- High blood pressure meds (beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin receptor blockers - ARB's)
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatorys (NSAIDs)
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitiors (SSRIs)
Cardiovascular disorder, or disease, are recognized as risk factors for falls in older adults. Also, it is worth noting that arterial stiffness was identified as an independent predictor for falls too.(*4) When working to improve someone's balance who has been diagnosed with heart disease, you must take into consideration the intensity and volume of the movements that are needed to perform in order to improve their balance. The more the muscles contract and work, the larger the demand for oxygenated blood on the heart. Especially when leg strength is so important to improving one's balance, it can be a bit tricky on how to manage workload versus what the heart can manage safely. Muscles as large as the quadriceps (thighs) can elevate heart rates pretty quickly and you should keep a pulse oximeter close by to monitor how high the heart rate is going during and after the actual movement.
If you have someone that is dealing with a heart that is not at full capacity or malfunctioning for some reason, this person will need more time to recover. Using your watch or a stopwatch to measure how long the heart rate takes to return to it's resting heart rate (a heart rate when just sitting and relaxing) can be a great way to safely manage someone with heart disease and their balance exercises. These tools are great and I use them with many clients, not just those with heart disease. Better balance is absolutely a possibilty for those with heart disease. The right exercises combined with the right tools can ensure safety and success!
For more information, visit:
Chris R. Williams
- American Heart Association
- American Heart Association