My friend, who is in her early 80s, has an unsteady gait. Why does this happen and is there anything she can do about it?
Answers from Edward T. Creagan, M.D.
With age, there is a natural loss of muscle mass that can lead to a loss of balance and coordination and affect the way you walk. This process can be accelerated by neurological disorders, such as dementia, as well as musculoskeletal disorders.
To improve her strength and ability to do normal activities, encourage your friend to talk to her doctor about:
- Assistive devices. These devices can help your friend maintain mobility and quality of life. A physical therapist can help her learn how to use a walker or cane.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, and resistance exercise, such as using free weights or resistance bands, can enhance muscle mass and strength and improve gait. Balance training can also help correct balance deficits and prevent falls.
- Supplements or medications. Your friend's doctor might recommend calcium and vitamin D to improve her bone health or, if she has osteoporosis, medications to reduce her risk of breaking a bone in the event of a fall.
By working with her doctor, your friend can determine ways to improve her gait and reduce the risk of a fracture in the event of a fall.
Oct. 10, 2017
See more Expert Answers
- Gait disorders in the elderly. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/geriatrics/gait-disorders-in-the-elderly/gait-disorders-in-the-elderly. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.
- Taffett GE. Normal aging. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.
- Calcium and vitamin D: Important at every age. National Institutes of Health. https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition/default.asp. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.