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Wearing heels in your older years could prevent deadly falls, with experts claiming they can help maintain our sense of balance – something that naturally begins to deteriorate from your 30s. We’re not advising older women totter to bridge club in towering stilettos, but wearing a slight heel works on your balance better than a flat shoe.
“Most high heels have a very small surface area to walk on, so you need a good sense of balance and proprioception [a sense of how various parts of the body move relative to each other] to be able to walk in them,” explained Christopher Walker, a consultant in trauma and orthopaedic surgery at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, reports MailOnline.
“This means that because of wearing high heels, women have a very good sense of balance.”
As we get older our chance of falling increases, with one in three over 65s falling each year. Scarily, falls are the biggest cause of accidental death in the over 75s and can also lead to broken bones and lengthy recovery times – with some people never fully regaining independence.
Being able to strengthen your balance could be key to preventing these falls. Changes in balance can occur as early as our 30s, when the part of our brain that controls our muscles, called the motor cortex, starts to deteriorate.
Muscles tell the brain where to place the foot and the space surrounding it, but as this sense gets weaker, tripping becomes more common.
Balance isn’t just about where your foot goes though; it also takes into account information from the eyes, muscles and mechanisms in the ear. Heels can challenge your sense of balance, which can sharpen these mechanisms.
“If women stop wearing heels, their sense of balance can actually deteriorate,” added Christopher.
“When we get older we tend to try to protect ourselves against falls by wearing broader and flatter shoes and not walking on rough or uneven ground. But this means that we lose the practice of maintaining good balance.
“So although we’re trying to protect ourselves, our balance actually deteriorates. So there may be a protective element to wearing heels.”
However, if you’ve been hit by a bout of illness, Christopher warns to stick to the flats, as age also affects muscle recovery time after inactivity (such as being laid-up in bed).
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