Healthy Aging Tips: How to Improve and Maintain Your Balance

Medicare Benefits Solutions

Jan 18, 2022

Balance problems in older people can be both frightening and disorienting. From general unsteadiness to dizziness, faintness and vertigo – that feeling when you experience a sense of spinning and fear you may fall – balance problems can affect you whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying down.

In this article, we look at what causes balance problems in older adults, and what you can do about it.

Balance Issues in Elderly People

Millions of older Americans report issues with balance annually. The symptoms they experience include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Faintness
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • A feeling of falling or spinning
  • A state of confusion or disorientation
  • Listing or staggering when walking

These symptoms are sometimes accompanied by others, such as nausea, sudden shifts in heart rate or blood pressure, anxiety, and panic attacks. These experiences can happen quickly and end after just a short period of time, or gradually increase in severity and last for longer durations.

If symptoms persist, you should always consult your doctor. There may be no reason for concern. Equally, you may find that one or more of your bodily systems isn’t working healthily. Either way, getting checked over for balance issues is never a bad idea – especially for those who are a little older.

What Causes Balance Issues in Older Adults?

As with many physical and medical conditions experienced in later life, there’s no one reason why an older person might be having issues with balance. The most probable causes of balance issues are things affecting the brain or the inner ear, like head injuries and inner ear infections.

Another cause of balance difficulties can arise from issues with blood pressure – for example, that disorientating feeling you get now and then when you stand up too quickly. It’s also the case that skeletal issues like arthritis and problems with the eye muscles can lead to balance problems in older people.

Perhaps surprisingly, such balance problems can sometimes be the result of medications a person is taking. However, unfortunately, it’s also true that balance issues can come on without any obvious cause – especially as we age.

Other Causes of Balance Issues

Many people don’t know that balance issues can have their root causes in things that may seem at first quite unlikely. We usually imagine that balance is mainly a function controlled by our brains and the fluids in our inner ears. But there are other reasons for balance issues in elderly people.

  • Nerve damage in the legs – Issues with peripheral neuropathy in your legs can introduce weaknesses or difficulties when walking or standing.
  • Neurological conditions – Both cervical spondylosis and Parkinson’s Disease can cause you to experience balance issues.
  • Psychiatric disorders – Depression, anxiety and similar disorders can cause and/or contribute to difficulties with balance.

Inner Ear Balance Issues

The need for surgery to remedy balance issues is typically related to a condition known as Meniere’s Disease. It affects what’s called the vestibular system, and there is a range of procedures that can correct the problem. However, it’s important to note that this condition can also be treated without invasive surgery.

If you’re at all concerned about your balance issues as you age, speaking to your doctor and getting a diagnosis is always the best first step.

How to Help Balance Issues

The human body being the complex machine that it is, it can often be the case that fixing an underlying problem in one area of your body will also remedy any issues you’re having with balance. Your doctor will be able to tell you if the likely cause of your balance issues is rooted somewhere else within your body – and what to do about this.

You may find that physical therapy is required to treat the cause of your balance issues, or that a change in diet will help you to feel more steady on your feet, more of the time. Your doctor may prescribe medications and/or exercises to help you control your balance problems. Whereas in the most extreme cases, you may need surgery to help you regain control of your balance.

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