DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You answer many questions on sports and training. I like the answers, but I don’t use them, since my sporting days are over. I do have a problem that qualifies as a sports question, I think. It’s my balance. I don’t have any. I’m so wobbly that I’m scared of falling. Can you suggest any exercises for me to get some balance in my life? C.V.

ANSWER:
Your sporting days might be over, but exercise days are never over.

Loss of balance is a common complaint of older people. So many body mechanisms are involved with balance, and so many of them suffer from aging, that keeping from falling is a major preoccupation of seniors. One of the important elements of balance is muscle strength. It can be maintained only through exercise. Walking and simple resistance exercises like straightening the legs and holding them straight out while seated are things everyone can do to keep the legs strong.

Balance also involves input from the eyes and inner ears, from sensors in tendons throughout the body and from nerve transmission, all of which can be sharpened with some simple exercises.

Always have someone with you when doing these exercises. Someone has to be ready to grab you if you’re on the verge of falling down. An easy balance-training exercise is to slowly rise from a chair and repeat the action five times in a row. At first, you can use your hands to get up, but the goal is to do so without any help from the hands. Another excellent exercise is to stand in a doorway on one leg and hold the position for 5 seconds. Then switch legs. As you get stronger and more balanced, increase the amount of time standing on one leg until you’re up to 20 to 30 seconds. A variation on this exercise is to stand on one leg while swinging the other leg from side to side in front of you. The swinging leg’s knee is kept straight, and the arc made in the swing can be small at first but should be increased as you gain proficiency. Needless to say, you alternate legs.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son is a cross-country runner. He exercises with weights, including leg exercises with weights. I believe he’s making a big mistake. He’s going to develop bulky muscles that will slow him down. Am I right about this? R.M.

ANSWER:
You’re wrong about it.

He’s not going to develop bulky muscles that will slow him down. He’s going to develop strong muscles that will speed him up.

He can’t expect to become a first-class distance runner only by doing strengthening exercises. He has to develop muscle endurance, which comes from running long distances.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I know we lose muscle strength and size when we age. Can’t men retain their muscles and strength by taking the kind of steroids athletes use to grow big muscles? I would be willing to use them if they worked. D.R.

ANSWER:
The “steroids” you’re talking about are male hormones. They do enhance muscle growth, but they also have side effects that no one wants. One side effect is enlargement of the prostate gland. Every man’s prostate gland gets bigger with age.

It often gets so big that it makes emptying the bladder nearly impossible. That’s just one of the side effects of these hormones. Your idea is imaginative, but it’s not a healthy one.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Doc, what ever happened to the Band-Aids I used to see football players wear on their noses? At one time, just about every player had one on. I don’t see them now. Why not? B.M.

ANSWER:
Patient, those adhesive strips were worn by many athletes, not just football players. They were supposed to open the nostrils to make breathing easier.

I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t know if they’re still available. I don’t know if they worked.

Does anyone out there have information for B.M.?

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: If a yeast skin infection of the abdomen, breasts or arms is not treated for years, can it get into the body and into internal organs? My ladies’ card club has a disagreement about this. Does codeine cause hands or legs to shake? – B.K.

ANSWER: Yeast (candida) skin infections don’t usually spread from the skin to the inner organs if a person’s immune system is healthy.

Tremors are not listed as a side effect of codeine. Does this qualify me for membership in the club?

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.