On Monday, October 1, 2018 join us in celebrating International Day Of Older Persons. Thank them for their wisdom and love and remind them that a regular exercise program and a healthy eating plan can do wonders for any person regardless of age or ability.
Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
No Matter Your Age, It’s Never Too Late to Get Started
There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues, or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you. But as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. Getting moving can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. And regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory. No matter your age or your current physical condition, these tips can show you simple, enjoyable ways to become more active and improve your health and outlook.
What are the benefits of exercise for older adults?
A recent Swedish study found that physical activity was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But getting active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years. You’ll not only look better when you exercise, you’ll feel sharper, more energetic, and experience a greater sense of well-being.
Physical health benefits
Helps you maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories.
Reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Mental health benefits
Improves sleep. Quality sleep is vital for your overall health. Regular activity can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed.
Boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident.
Does amazing things for the brain. Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help keep your brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. It can help brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Getting active may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Overcoming obstacles to getting active as you age
Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age—and it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. You may feel discouraged by health problems, aches and pains, or concerns about injuries or falls. If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin, or perhaps you think you’re too old or frail, can never live up to the standards you set when you were younger. Or maybe you just think that exercise is boring.
While these may seem like good reasons to slow down and take it easy as you age, they’re even better reasons to get moving. Becoming more active can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being. And reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your health and outlook, and improve how you age.
Six myths about activity and aging
Myth 1: There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get only anyway.
Fact: Regular physical activity helps you look and feel younger and stay independent longer. It also lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and obesity. And the mood benefits of exercise can be just as great at 70 or 80 as they were at 20 or 30.
Myth 2: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.
Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.
Myth 3: It’s too frustrating: I’ll never be the athlete I once was.
Fact: Changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass mean that strength and performance levels inevitably decline with age, but that doesn’t mean you can no longer derive a sense of achievement from physical activity or improve your health. The key is to set lifestyle goals that are appropriate to your age. And remember: a sedentary lifestyle takes a much greater toll on athletic ability than biological aging.
Myth 4: I’m too old to start exercising.
Fact: You’re never too old to get moving and improve your health! In fact, adults who become active later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, you won’t be encumbered by the same sports injuries that many regular exercisers experience in later life. In other words, there aren’t as many miles on your clock so you’ll quickly start reaping the rewards. Just begin with gentle activities and build up from there.
Myth 5: I can’t exercise because I’m disabled.
Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair Tai Chi to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health. Many swimming pools offer access to wheelchair users and there are adaptive exercise programs for wheelchair sports such as basketball.
Myth 6: I’m too weak or have too many aches and pains.
Fact: Getting moving can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently.
What if you hate to exercise?
If you dread working out, you’re not alone. But you don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches to make a big difference to your health. Think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them into an exercise routine:
- Listen to music or an audiobook while lifting weights.
- Window shopping while walking laps at the mall.
- Get competitive while playing tennis.
- Take photographs on a nature hike.
- Meet new people at a yoga class or fitness center.
- Watch a favorite movie or TV show while on the treadmill.
- Instead of chatting with a friend over coffee, chat while walking, stretching, or strength training.
- Walk the golf course instead of using a cart.
- Walk or play fetch with a dog. If you don’t own a dog, offer to take a neighbor’s dog for a walk or volunteer at a pet shelter or rescue group.
- Go for a run, walk, or cycle when you’re feeling stressed—see how much better you feel afterwards.
- Find an exercise buddy, someone whose company you really enjoy, and try activities you’ve never tried before—you may find something you love. At worst, you’ve spent time with a good friend.
Building a balanced exercise plan
Staying active is not a science. Just remember that mixing different types of physical activity helps both to keep your workouts interesting and improve your overall health. The key is to find activities that you enjoy—based on the four building blocks of fitness. These are:
What it is: Maintains standing and stability, whether you’re stationary or moving around. Try yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises to gain confidence with balance.
Why it’s good for you: Improves balance, posture, and quality of your walking. Also reduces risk of falling and fear of falls.
What it is: Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and you may even feel a little short of breath. Includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis, and dancing.
Why it’s good for you: Helps lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. Promotes independence by improving endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, and errands.
3: Strength and power training
What it is: Builds up muscle with repetitive motion using weight or external resistance from body weight, machines, free weights, or elastic bands. Power training is often strength training done at a faster speed to increase power and reaction times.
Why it’s good for you: Strength training helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle, and improves balance—both important in staying active and avoiding falls. Power training can improve your speed while crossing the street, for example, or prevent falls by enabling you to react quickly if you start to trip or lose balance. Building strength and power will help you stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car, and lifting objects.
What it is: Challenges the ability of your body’s joints to move freely through a full range of motion. This can be done through stationary stretches and stretches that involve movement to keep your muscles and joints supple and less prone to injury. Yoga is an excellent means of improving flexibility.
Why it’s good for you: Helps your body stay limber and increases your range of movement for ordinary physical activities such as looking behind while driving, tying your shoes, shampooing your hair, and playing with your grandchildren.
Types of activities beneficial to older adults
Walking. Walking is a perfect way to start exercising. It requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and can be done anywhere.
Senior sports or fitness classes. Keeps you motivated while also providing a source of fun, stress relief, and a place to meet friends.
Water aerobics and water sports. Working out in water reduces stress and strain on the body’s joints.
Yoga. Combines a series of poses with breathing. Moving through the poses works on strength, flexibility and balance, and can be adapted to any level.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Martial arts-inspired systems of movement that increase balance and strength. Classes for seniors are often available at local YMCA or community centers.
Getting started safely
Getting active is one of the healthiest decisions you can make as you age, but it’s important to do it safely.
Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule.
Listen to your body. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. And put your routine on hold if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to the touch—the best way to cope with injuries is to avoid them in the first place. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort after exercising, try exercising for less time but more frequently throughout the day.
Start slow and build up steadily. If you haven’t been active in a while, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. If you’re concerned about falling or have an ongoing heart problem, start with easy chair exercises to slowly increase your fitness and confidence.
Prevent injury and discomfort by warming up, cooling down, and keeping water handy.
Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it. This is much easier if you find activities you enjoy.
Experiment with mindfulness. Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on how your body feels as you move—the rhythm of your breathing, the way your feet strike the ground, your muscles flexing, for example. You’ll improve your physical condition faster, better help to relieve stress and anxiety, and more likely to avoid accidents or injuries.
If you have an injury, disability, weight problem, or diabetes…
While there are challenges that come with exercising with mobility issues, by adopting a creative approach, you can overcome any physical limitations and find enjoyable ways to get active and improve your health and well-being.
Support activity levels with the right diet
Diet as well as exercise can have a major impact on energy, mood, and fitness. Many older adults don’t get sufficient high-quality protein in their diets despite evidence suggesting they actually need more than younger people to maintain energy levels and lean muscle mass, promote recovery from illness and injury, and support overall health. Older adults without kidney disease or diabetes should aim for about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Vary your sources of protein instead of relying on just red meat, including more fish, poultry, beans, and eggs.
- Reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates you consume—pastries, cakes, pizza, cookies and chips—and replace them with high-quality protein.
- Snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips, replace a baked dessert with Greek yogurt, swap out slices of pizza for a grilled chicken breast and a side of beans.
Tips for staying motivated
It’s easy to become discouraged when illness, injury, or changes in the weather interrupt your routine and seem to set you back to square one. But there are ways to stay motivated when life’s challenges get in the way:
Focus on short-term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.
Reward yourself when you successfully complete a workout, reach a new fitness goal, or simply show up on a day when you were tempted to ditch your activity plans. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercising, such as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.
Keep a log. Writing down your activities in an exercise journal not only holds you accountable, but is also a reminder of your accomplishments.
Get support. When you work out with a friend or family member, you can encourage and motivate each other.
|How to stay fit when your routine changes|
|You’re on vacation|
|Caring for an ill spouse is taking up too much of your time|
|Your usual exercise buddy moves away|
|You move to a new community|
|Illness keeps you out of action for a few weeks|
|You’re recovering from injury or surgery|
Exercise and Aging: Can you walk away from Father Time? – While aging is inevitable, exercise can help you to age with grace and vigor. (Harvard Health Publications)
How Exercise Can Help You – Covers the benefits of exercise for seniors, safe exercises to try, an FAQ, and charts to track your progress. (Go4Life NIH)
Benefits of Aquatic Fitness – Discusses the benefits of water exercise for people with medical conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, and back problems. (Aquatic Exercise Association)
Protein intake and exercise for optimal muscle function with aging – Details how exercise and protein intake can help limit and treat age-related declines in muscle mass, strength, and functional abilities. (The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism)
Wheelchair Yoga – Sample poses that can be performed in a wheelchair. (May All Be Happy)
Locate Chair Yoga Teachers – Find chair yoga classes and instructors in the US., Canada, England, Ireland, and several other countries. (Get Fit Where You Sit)
Chair Tai Chi – Video demonstrating Tai Chi for chair-bound individuals. (YouTube)
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: September 2018.
Here is Shamim guiding a very dedicated Noelene Henkel through some easy to do movements
Stay strong, be safe, and maintain your independence by integrating these top fitness options into your training plan. No matter your age, the best exercise for you is the one you enjoy the most…
Most people suffer back pain at one point or another in their lives.
Back pain is now the leading cause of disability worldwide, yet the way it is often treated makes it worse, according to a team of international health experts and backed by leading Perth physiotherapist Professor Peter O’Sullivan.
“In the western world, what we know is a lot of people with back pain have been offered surgery and opioid injection before they are offered high quality, non-interventional care,” says Professor O’Sullivan, a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist.
The Curtin University professor’s views are in line with a series of global studies released earlier this year.
Published in the medical journal The Lancet, the three papers by a group of 31 international authors — led by Monash University’s Professor Rachelle Buchbinder — draw attention to the massive impact of low back pain, and call for the removal of harmful and ineffective practices in treating it.
The authors found there is an over-reliance on scans, surgeries and opioid prescriptions to treat low back pain, which could be more effectively treated through self-management and less-invasive physical and psychological therapies.
Professor O’Sullivan says low-risk, high-value interventions which potentially offer significant benefit are not being offered as a first line.
Instead, expensive and risky intervention procedures without great outcomes are proffered-up instead.
“For someone without private health insurance, it would be cheaper through the public system for someone to have spinal surgery than to see a physiotherapist for a course of education and progressive exercise and that’s just completely crazy,” he says.
A WA Department of Health spokesperson says surgery for back pain is regarded as an option of last resort and in the WA health system is treated as such.
“At Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, only a quarter of patients referred for back pain go on to have surgery,” the spokesperson says.
Is back pain a damaged back?
Jumping to scans, surgeries and opioids stem from the belief that back pain equals a damaged back and a scan is required to identify a problem, says Professor O’Sullivan.
“The problem is most people have stuff on the scan, so it triggers this ripple effect where the next step is to try and fix the structure. We know there is a strong relationship with having been scanned and going for injections and ending up with surgery. It creates this spiralling effect,” he says.
Professor O’Sullivan is not anti-scanning.
He says scans are required in some cases, say following a major trauma, but he says that is only about one per cent of presenting cases.
While it’s easy to lay the blame on the doorstep of one set of health professionals, Professor O’Sullivan says it is much more complex.
“We know there is a stepped approach that normally happens in clinical care. Even that first step is not well managed and that is a reflection on our profession that we are not adequately dealing with people that are distressed with pain. They rapidly jump to the next step or they just miss the first step completely and I think that is happening quite a lot in the care setting,” he says.
Societal beliefs also play a big part. “If you ask people in the community, ‘what do you think back pain means?’, usually they say ‘God, there is something damaged in your back and it probably means you need a scan, and it probably means you shouldn’t be active, and you should have bed rest and take a day off work’.”
Contradicting this, the Lancet papers state bed rest and not remaining active actually delays recovery.
Do you have the right expectations?
Australian Medical Association (WA) president Dr Omar Khorshid says part of the problem with treating back pain is there is little high-quality evidence to guide treatment.
Are there people that surgery is the right thing for? Yes, there are, but how do you identify those people? I think that is where the research needs to go.
“How we target our interventions, who does benefit from surgery, who doesn’t, because it is clear some people do, but how do we pick them and avoid inappropriate referrals?” explains Dr Khorshid.
He says while doctors have known for decades the best treatment for mechanical back pain is “maintaining activity, minimising rest, keeping the muscles strong and trying to get back to normal life” and of which the majority of presenting patients are advised, patient expectations are a whole different ball game. “We do have a problem in our society where people will be going to doctors expecting an intervention, investigation or treatment and doctors are under a lot of pressure to do that and that is partly behind the rates of investigation that we see,” Dr Khorshid says.
“Like many Western countries we have an over-dependence on opiate medications. Someone presents to the doctor in a lot of pain, the doctor who is a compassionate person feels they need to relieve that pain and offers amongst other things opiate treatment to help the patient get through their acute problem. But what we have realised is in the long-term it makes the pain more difficult to manage as patients become dependent on opiates and their pain overall gets worse.”
A new understanding on backs
A large part of Professor O’Sullivan’s solution to back pain is education, empowering patients with clear, practical strategies to put them “back in charge of their lives”.
Having back pain very rarely means you are damaged or it is something serious, therefore it is really important that we engage with the things that are most likely to be related to your pain … like you are under stress, you are not sleeping well, your mood, or you are not active and that can trigger a pain event. We know those factors are commonly linked to a flare up of back pain.
“And those things are really important to reassure the patient that it is really safe to go to work, it is really safe to get active and it is really important you get moving very quickly and then to map out a plan for that.”
Intervention is the key
Chiropractors Association of Australia WA president Joshua Tymms says not all back pain can be self-managed. He says if treatment is needed to help recovery for back pain, early intervention is key.
“Certainly patients are still not getting the right advice 100 per cent of the time as Professor Buchbinder points out. Research constantly strengthens the case for conservative care of back problems rather than medications and surgery,” Dr Tymms says, adding people should seek out a chiropractor if they are unsure how to manage a back pain problem.
Professor O’Sullivan says what is healthy for the back is movement, loading and physical activity. There is no ideal exercise, just one the person enjoys and will do regularly, and preferably engages movement in all directions.
He also points out it is typical to have aches and pains. “It’s kind of normal but what is not normal is to freak out about your pain and stop working and not engage with activity.
I think it is important to understand that it is not possible to eradicate pain out of people’s lives but it is absolutely possible to provide people with strategies to go about their lives in a very normal way so pain doesn’t disrupt it.
Traditional thinking under fire
It’s a common story told by back pain sufferers — one that starts with an everyday activity.
Three years ago, firefighter Joe Laurence, 30, was hauling a fire hose over a fence. It was something he had done hundreds of times before. The fence shifted and he felt a shooting pain go down his foot.
It pulled up OK, but a week later as he was walking along the beach, he stepped in a hole… and spent the next week and a half immobile in bed.
“I didn’t have a day for the next three years where I didn’t consider my back and it was just a nightmare,” Joe says.
What followed were physiotherapists, chiropractors, rehabilitation and a scan where he was told he had the back of a 60-year-old.
“After the scan, in my head I was thinking there were these bulges and fissures and to me that meant; hold on, you have to take it easy,” explains Joe.
“I was always bracing, always sitting bolt upright with a so-called good posture and now I see, those things are probably what caused it to become the chronic problem it was. If I had just kept moving naturally, not thinking I was damaged, I would have been able to keep moving well.”
Joe’s mental health suffered too. With a physical job, he thought he had a career expiry date. “I really love being a firey, so it really played with my mental health.”
When a second incident put Joe back at square one after three years, he visited physiotherapist Professor Peter O’Sullivan for a different perspective.
“The message I got from everyone else was that you have to protect your back and brace your core. Pete just said your back is designed to bend, so bend it. Your back is designed to twist, so twist it. It’s safe to load your back in a flexed position… within about a month, I went from being worried about tying up my shoelaces or lifting the toilet seat, to this pain-free range of motion which I then strengthened up like you do with any other joint in the body,” he says.
“He literally gave me a licence to move. He said ‘look, pain doesn’t mean damage, if you keep moving, you’ll get better at it and the pain will subside. Your body will realise it is not a threatening action… these actions are perfectly healthy and normal and good for you and not dangerous’… and that was the difference.
“It’s absolutely amazing how effective this way of thinking was and I can’t believe how much resistance there is to it, to be honest.”
About Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is the most frequently occurring permanently disabling birth defect. It affects the development of the spine, spinal cord and the brain. For everyone born with spina bifida at least one spinal vertebra is only partly formed and the spinal cord at that point and below as well as the skin around the site are not properly developed. In about 90% of people with spina bifida, the alteration to the brains development causes hydrocephalus.
Things to remember about spina bifida:
- It is very complex. It can affect all organ systems of the body and require a full range of specialist treatments.
- It is unstable. Even though it is not a degenerative condition, any of the associated conditions can arise at any time and the treatment options may fail at any time.
- The many associated conditions usually require frequent medical, surgical and allied health intervention. It is common for children and adults to be hospitalised several times each year.
- It is a snowflake condition. No two people are affected in exactly the same way and the amount of damage to the central nervous system (brain and spine) varies from person to person.
What causes Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some factors, such as having a close family history of spina bifida or taking some anti epileptic medication are known to increase the risk, however 95% of children with spina bifida are born in circumstances where high risk factors are not apparent.
What are the effects of Spina Bifida?
The effects vary considerably from person to person. Spina bifida is commonly found in the lumbar and sacral spine. Because the lumbosacral spinal nerves control muscles and feelings in the lower limbs, people with spina bifida have some degree of paralysis. Most people need to use a wheelchair. Bladder and bowel functioning are also severely affected. Tethering is caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column. Other common problems include curvature of the spine, decubitis, epilepsy, short stature, latex allergy, urinary tract infections, as well as many other problems caused by hydrocephalus. Frequent hospitalisations are needed to treat these problems.
How common is Spina Bifida?
More than 10 million people worldwide have spina bifida. In Australia approximately 1 in 1,200 pregnancies are affected by spina bifida. With the use of folic acid this incidence is believed to be declining. There are over 1,000 adults and children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus in Queensland.
Is there a cure for Spina Bifida?
No. There is no cure for this condition because damaged nerve tissue cannot be replaced or repaired.
Is there a treatment for Spina Bifida?
Multiple surgeries, other medical treatment, medication, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, neuropsychology, medical aids, assistive equipment and assistance at school and beyond are all required in the treatment of spina bifida. Spina bifida is not a condition that people outgrow. People have to learn to manage its effects as best they can and live with them. Ongoing medical care, surgical procedures, therapy and community support are all required to prevent and manage complications throughout a person’s life.
Can Spina Bifida be prevented?
No, but the risk can be minimised if an expectant mother takes a daily supplement of 0.5mg of folic acid one month before conception and three months after. Folic acid is a B vitamin which is present mainly in leafy green vegetables. Research has shown that this regime reduces the incidence of spina bifida and similar birth defects by up to 70%. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that all women of child bearing age consume a 0.5mg daily folic acid supplement. People with a close family history of spina bifida have a higher risk and should consult their doctor about a higher dose of folic acid.
What does the future hold?
There are many unknowns to do with spina bifida. Medical research dealing with the ongoing problems associated with spina bifida is relatively new. Prior to the 1960s few children with spina bifida survived. Now the first group of people with spina bifida and hydrocephalus have reached adulthood and we are starting to see what effect spina bifida has on their lives. Although the future of how ageing will affect each individual is unclear, we do know that proactive management of physical and mental health will maximise each person’s quality of life well into adulthood.
What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is the result of a blockage in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the pathways of the ventricles of the brain, causing pressure on the brain. A clear, saltwater-like liquid called (CSF) surrounds the brain. This fluid protects and hydrates the brain, carries away waste from brain cells and contains important chemicals and nutrients. Each day the brain produces about 500mL of cerebrospinal fluid. The CSF flows in a continuous circuit through the brain cavities (ventricles), and over the surface of the brain and spinal cord until it is absorbed by the body. When CSF is constantly being produced, but cannot get out, it accumulates and causes raised pressure inside the brain. When there is a blockage, the ventricles swell or enlarge and the brain tissue is stretched and squashed.
Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida
Approximately 90% of people born with spina bifida also have hydrocephalus. Somewhere along the CSF pathways, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid has been obstructed.
How is Hydrocephalus Treated?
Hydrocephalus is usually treated by insertion of a “shunt”. A shunt is a device which drains excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to other parts of the body. A one-way valve is used, which usually sits outside the skull, but beneath the skin, somewhere behind the ear.
How common is hydrocephalus?
The rate of hydrocephalus with or without spina bifida is 1 in 500. It is the most common reason for brain surgery in children.
Types of Hydrocephalus and terms commonly used
External Hydrocephalus: Fluid builds up around the inside of the skull, rather than within the brain in the ventricles
Congenital Hydrocephalus: Means present at birth. In congenital hydrocephalus it is often impossible to determine the cause. It is assumed to be due to the baby’s development before birth that somewhere the CSF pathways have been blocked.
Acquired Hydrocephalus: Develops often as a result of injury to the brain. Bleeding in the brain is the most common cause of hydrocephalus. Infections such as measles or meningitis can also cause hydrocephalus.
Arrested Hydrocephalus: At some time there has been increased pressure causing enlarged ventricles, but it did not progress. It is the progression of pressure that causes most damage to the brain.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: Occurs in older people. Dementia type symptoms may develop and often bladder control and unsteady gait develops.