It should be our goal, everyone’s goal, to live long and to live well. Investing in your later years doesn’t just mean putting away and investing money or buying a house. It means strengthening our relationships, staying mentally and physically active, and utilizing preventative health care. As it turns out, one method for preventing dangerous falls in later life can be staying sharp today.
A simple cognitive test in mid-life can predict if one’s at risk of falling later in life.
Studying words and cognition for physical balance
A new study from University College London found that lower scores in tests on word memory, verbal fluency, processing speed, and cognitive ability in one’s 50s are early indicators of diminished balance in later life.
“Our research highlights that there is a strong cognitive component involved in successful balance,” said Dr. Joanna Blodgett, lead author of the paper. “Current balance/fall risk interventions tend to focus on physical aspects, such as strength or balance training. However, it may now be useful to investigate if interventions that improve cognition could also improve balance.”
Falling is one of the most common causes of injury for individuals over 75, and this has often been brushed aside as an unavoidable part of aging, with few researchers looking into the whys and hows of seniors falling down.
In the past, most research has focused on the purely physical component of poor balance later in life, with one’s musculature and skeletal structure. Now, research shows that our systems are more complicated than that and that the brain plays a big role.
“Our research shows that given the crucial neural integration of sensory input and motor response required to maintain balance is one of the physical capability measures most closely linked to cognitive ability,” said Blodgett to the Guardian.
Training now to improve balance later
These findings might seem alarming at first. However, now neurological researchers are investigating the use of cognitive training to improve one’s balance later in life. There are numerous tests, exercises, and practices that one can work into their daily life to improve their cognition.
In the near future, we may hear new news stories advising us to do crossword puzzles or read more for the sake of our balance in later life. In any case, you have only to gain by keeping sharp, reading more, or enjoying puzzles with friends and family, to help yourself in the future.