Health & Nutrition Health and Nutrition - February - Page 31

L ike almost everything else, the way we walk changes as we age. Maybe you’ve noticed it in yourself or a friend: A slower step, a slight stagger, or a limp, a shuffle, a tilt. But how do you know what’s normal and what’s not? While many people experience some slight changes in their gait as they age, for others this doesn’t happen until they are extremely old. However, walking difficulty should not be accepted as an inevitable consequence of aging. It can signal an underlying condition that needs medical attention and whose adverse impact on mobility and independence can be avoided if recognized and treated early enough. A study estimated that about 10% of people aged between 60 and 69, and nearly 62% among people aged between 80 and 97, have a gait, or walking pattern, disorder. Abnormal gait changes can signal a nervous system condition, such as Parkinson’s disease; a bone, muscle, or joint disorder, such as arthritis; psychological factors, such as anxiety or depression; or drug side effects. Some gait disturbances are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and cardiovascular disease. Any type of gait change pre- disposes adults to falls and serious injuries. If you notice a change in gait in yourself or a loved one, have the change checked out by a doctor to detect the underlying causes and prevent falls and future immobility. NORMAL AGE- RELATED GAIT CHANGES Several distinct elements determine whether gait is normal in healthy older adults: u Speed. Most adults walk more slowly as they age. In people who don’t have significant health problems, gait speed declines by about 0.2% a year up to age 63, and up to 1.6% each year after that. A reason for a slower gait may be decreased strength in the calf muscles, which you use to propel yourself forward. u Cadence. For most people, cadence, or rhythm, doesn’t change as they age. Cadence is walking An upright rmal in o n is n io it pos adults, r e ld o y h lt hea e people m o s h g u o alth ir pelvis may tilt the an inward h it w d r a w for r back e w lo e th curve in lumbar s a n w o n (k se of tight u a c e b ) is lordos les, weak c s u m r o x hip-fle cles, and s u m l a in abdom minal fat. o d b a d e s increa