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New Study Highlights the Importance of “Postural Sway”

by Guest Blogger
Senior adult practicing yoga by the pool

Yes, low bone density can potentially lead to a fracture. But there’s another factor that can increase fracture risk by more than 10 times! It’s something called “postural sway.”

Below, I’ll explain what that is, how a new study shows it’s something to be concerned about, and — the good news! — what you can do to make it less of an issue.

What is Postural Sway?

Postural sway is basically how well you can maintain balance while “quiet standing” (not speaking or doing anything else).

That might sound pretty straightforward, but it’s not! Just standing still is the result of a complex relationship between your muscular and neurological systems. If they don’t work in perfect harmony with each other, your balance can be affected.

Medical professionals have many methods for measuring a person’s postural sway. But one of the most popular is called the Berg Balance Scale. This involves rating a patient’s stability while they stand still (with eyes open and closed) and do ordinary tasks like reaching and bending.

Unfortunately, as you age, your ability to maintain balance becomes weaker. That’s why falling and breaking a bone can be such a concern! In fact, a study from 2013 reported that falls are the number one cause of death for older people. And among those who suffer a hip fracture because of a fall, one in five will pass away within a year.

A New Study on the Role of Postural Sway

It’s because of statistics like these that researchers in Finland wanted to look into how much of a role severe postural sway plays in the risk of an osteoporotic fracture.

Their study followed 1,568 Finnish women between the ages of 53 and 65. The participants’ postural sway was measured with an electronic platform that detects body movement. The researchers then followed up with the women over several years.

The results showed that women with the highest postural sway and the lowest bone density were 11.8 times more likely to suffer an osteoporotic fracture. They were also 4.9 times more likely to experience a fracture for reasons not associated with osteoporosis.

The researchers concluded that high postural sway is a significant risk factor for bone fractures. And it becomes a greater risk when combined with low bone density.

I know, that may all seem pretty obvious! But it’s worth keeping in mind just how much more at risk of a fracture you are if you have high postural sway. And if you have low bone density on top of that, the risk is a lot greater…

What You Can Do to Reduce Fall Risk

Now, there are things you can do to decrease your chances of a fall — like clearing your home of tripping hazards and wearing shoes that provide good grip! Visit this page for a comprehensive Fall Prevention Checklist.

You can also reduce your risk of falling through exercise. In fact, there are many exercises specifically designed to improve balance. You can find a list of gentle, safe exercises for older adults here.

And if you’re concerned you might have high postural sway, be sure to ask your medical professional to schedule a test. It’s fast, easy, and will give you a better idea of how good your balance is!

By Dean Neuls
Dean Neuls is the Co-Founder and CEO of AlgaeCal. He is a natural health author and student of bone health science who is passionate about helping people & bettering lives.

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