HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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6. Foot pain

Neuropathy and some other foot conditions ranging from bunions to corns and hammertoes can all impact steady footing and increase the chances of a slip and fall.


7. Uncontrolled diabetes

This condition can affect just about every organ in the body. It can cause vision problems and balance instability resulting from a combination of loss of sensation or nerve damage and inadequate blood flow to the bottoms of the feet.


8. Diseases of the eye

Some of these can lead to dizziness and loss of equilibrium if vision becomes impaired. Annual eye exams are vital to identifying and preventing conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts from affecting depth perception and healthy sight. Cataracts may cause balance issues as well. In most cases, when diagnosed early, successful cataract surgery will help fully restore balance.


Good health and wellness practices, including regular exercise, good nutrition and ample rest, are important ingredients in maintaining favorable equilibrium. The healthier a person’s lifestyle, the better chances he or she has for reducing the risk of balance issues.

Vision and balance are highly integrated in the brain, but we don’t fully understand the relative contributions of the visual, proprioceptive and vestibular systems in maintaining balance and preventing falls. We do know there are several possible causes of balance problems. Balance erodes naturally and gradually with age, but several health conditions can cause people to experience equilibrium issues that affect proper stability.


Some of the most common medical conditions that can affect the sense of balance include:


1. Medications

Some medications carry side effects that can negatively impact balance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to certain sedatives, antidepressants, antihistamines and blood pressure medications that have been linked to vision issues, drowsiness and dizziness. Some of these also cause damage to the inner ear, which is the body’s balance center.


2. Neurological disorders

(such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke or other ataxia- related disorders) People suffering from these disorders often experience a decline in muscle control in the legs and arms, resulting in loss of balance, disturbed gait and decreasing coordination and equilibrium.

BALANCE AND VISION IMPORTANT FOR PREVENTING FALLS


3. Migraines

These debilitating headaches can cause motion sickness, vision issues and even disruptions in balance as the person suffering from them becomes extremely sensitive to light and sound. Dizziness usually occurs when the body’s visual information system is unable to properly process exterior stimuli via the brain, a function that is needed to maintain proper balance.


4. Inner-ear conditions

An ear infection can cause vertigo or dizziness, which in turn can cause balance problems.


5. Low blood pressure

This condition, known as hypotension, occurs when blood pressure in the arteries is low (typically under 90/60) and the brain is robbed of oxygen-rich blood. As a result, light-headedness occurs, causing impaired spatial awareness and dizziness and fainting if the patient sits or stands up too quickly.

DR. THOMAS W. MILLER, PH.D, ABPP

Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut and Professor Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine and Department of Gerontology, College of Public Health, University of Kentucky.

more articles by dr thomas W. Miller