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PAPERWORK: I do lean to the left, but it ain’t political

Things that go bump in the night.


That’s right. Put me on that list.

More accurately, put me on the list of things that go bump in the daylight. When I’m up and about.

I’m not sure when it started. But it’s obvious that something is out of kilter.

That something is me.

It’s all about balance. And my age.

Instead of balance, I find myself using the word inertia.

Inertia is a physics thing.

“A property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.”

The matter in this case being my body.

Like my body leaning (usually to the left) for whatever reason.And keeps leaning.

Until that external force. Like a nearby wall. Or railing.

I’m not stumbling or feeling faint. Just suddenly leaning.

I’m pretty sure it’s normal. I’ve heard that with aging comes balance issues.

It’s not a constant thing, but does happen often. Well, often enough to force me to do a quick search online: “aging and balance issues.”

(Which, of course, I did right before deciding to write this.)

And near the top of my search results is Ask Doctor K. The question being: “Why does balance decline with age?”

The question alone confirms what I knew. I’m getting old and stuff like this happens.

Dr. K is Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School. He says a number of aging factors can come into play.

His answer, in short, notes:

– Our eyes have more trouble seeing clearly as we age. That affects depth perception. And thus balance.

– If you stand up fast, blood pressure can dip, making you dizzy and light-headed or even faint.

– Aging weakens muscle mass and strength and the power to react swiftly when you lose balance.

– Also reflexes and coordination are not as snappy as we get older.

None of these describe what’s happening to me.

Dr. K did mention one factor that could be the culprit.

It involves the balance center in our ears or the vestibular system.

This is one of those little miracles of creation in the human body. This system knows where and what your body is doing: standing, sitting, flat on your back or whatever.

This system is plugged into your brain, the part that controls balance. So if you’re falling or tripping, the brain sends out a command to correct the mishap.

“As we age, cells in the vestibular system die off,” explains Dr. K.

“This affects how accurately we detect our position in space. That, in turn, affects our ability to correct our position.

“For example, if we start to tilt to the right and the vestibular system doesn’t detect this quickly, it becomes harder for the brain to prevent falling to the right.”

Or leaning to the left. Yep, That’s me.

So I guess I’ve got some cells dying off in my ear.

Dr. K. did offer advice, mostly involving balance exercises.

They are pretty simple. Like sitting in a tall chair and squeezing your shoulder blades together and then stand up (10 reps).

Or hold on to the back of a chair with both hands, standing, feet together. Then lift one leg straight out about six inches. Do 10 times and then do the other leg. Do with eyes closed if you can.

I thinking there might be more benefits from tai chi or yoga.

Oh, wait. I just remembered. I’ve got this book that really gets into this balance thing. Hang on …

Got it. Are you ready for this?

“Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth.”

The book is by Peter Kelder who shares secrets he learned from a man who slowed his aging using five ancient Tibetan exercises.

(Did Dr. K just roll his eyes?)

The exercises focus on the seven energy centers in our body or vortexes.

“These seven vortexes govern the seven ductless glands in the body’s endocrinesystem, and the endocrine glands, in turn, regulate all of the body’s functions, including the process of aging,” Kelder says.

He says the vortexes revolve at a great speed that pushes life forces or energy through the endocrine system. When a vortex slows down or gets blocked it leads to illness — and aging.

The five exercises get those vortexes spinning again. A quick glance at the illustrations shows the exercises involve actually spinning your body and what looks a lot like yoga.

The book also gets into diet. But to be fair and honest, I have not read the entire book.

(I have a feeling I will now. The book is sitting right here. And there’s that leaning thing.)

Clearly, some kind of exercise might help. Keep the body in motion and focus more.

I’m also thinking that tapping into ancient Tibetan secrets would be more fun than playing with a tall chair.

We’ll see. I’ll get back to you when I start feeling — and looking — 30 again.

Or if I stop bumping into things.

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

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