Balance may be something most of us take for granted, but did you know that as you age you may experience some changes in your ability to balance?
These changes can include difficulty remaining upright and steady, difficulty walking on uneven surfaces, vertigo, and even faintness. Approximately one in five elderly people experience difficulties with dizziness or balance, and falling is the leading cause of injury in people aged 65 and older.
Problems with balance can have a huge impact on both your physical health and your mental health, as balance disorders can interfere with your ability to exercise, socialize, and get from place to place.
Read on to find out what causes issues with balance as you age, and what can be done to prevent or treat this unfortunate occurrence.
Many systems in your body must work together for you to achieve proper balance.
Your eyes, muscles, joints, and the vestibular system in your inner ear all contribute to your ability to remain upright, see clearly while your body is in motion, and make automatic adjustments to your posture to keep your body upright and stable.
When your brain processes this sensory information, it sends out messages to the muscles that control your eyes, head, neck, trunk, torso, and legs. These messages allow you to maintain balance.
Our bodies change significantly as we age, putting us at higher risk of certain health conditions.
Because all of the key components of our body's complex balance system, our eyesight, our brain’s ability to respond to sensory commands and send messages to the rest of our body, and our strength all start to decline as our bodies go through their natural aging process. As we age, we are also more prone to diseases that can leave us with balance-related issues, which is why this can be a normal and natural part of getting older for many people.
Because of the natural degeneration of components of our balance system, our natural aging process can cause problems with balance. However, this is not the only cause of balance disorders, nor is it exclusively elderly people that experience balance disorders.
In fact, there are a range of conditions and disorders that cause balance issues and affect people of all ages.
Here are some other possible causes of balance-related symptoms like vertigo, dizziness, loss of balance or unsteadiness, or feeling faint or lightheaded.
In cases of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which can occur as a result of certain lifestyle factors or in individuals with diabetes, you may experience possible symptoms of dizziness or lightheadedness. Confusion and nervousness can also occur as a result of low blood sugar.
BPPV occurs when the calcium crystals from your inner ear that help control balance are dislodged and move to a different part of the ear. This is the most common cause of feelings of vertigo in adults.
Vestibular neuritis is a disorder that may be caused by a virus or an infection in the body, and affects the nerves in your inner ear, leading to balance-related issues.
Migraines can cause feelings of dizziness and sensitivity to light. Migraines are also associated with motion sickness, which can cause feelings of dizziness when you are in cars, airplanes, or boats.
A concussion, or head injury, can cause vertigo, dizziness, and other balance-related issues.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome, also known as herpes zoster oticus, is a shingles-like infection that affects the nerves in your ears. It can cause vertigo, ear pain, hearing loss, and facial weakness.
Cardiovascular diseases like abnormal heart rhythms, blocked blood vessels, and a thickened heart muscle can reduce blood flow and cause lightheadedness.
Loss of balance and lightheadedness can be a side effect of certain medications.
Some neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, can cause balance-related issues.
Symptoms of balance disorder can include any or all of the following. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see a doctor to rule out any balance disorders or determine what is causing these sensations.
Balance issues can affect many common activities and therefore can have a significant impact on your life and your mental health and anxiety.
As we age, the chance that we lose our balance and fall becomes more likely. If you have fallen previously, or know someone who has, you may experience anxiety about falling. This fear of falling can also cause you to reduce physical activity and decrease your participation in regular activities, which can even result in a lower quality of life.
Fear of falling can also result in an increased likelihood of falling, since when you stop participating in your regular physical activities, you can become weaker, thereby increasing your chance of falling.
So, if you have balance issues that are affecting your life, visit your doctor for guidance and next steps to protect both your safety and mental health. Learning how to reduce your risk of falling and making a plan to get help if you do fall due to balance issues may be helpful as well.
As you age, it is crucial to stay active to maintain both our mental and physical health. Regular physical activity can help you maintain your strength and prevent falls and injuries from balance-related issues. There are even exercises you can do in your own home that will improve your balance and prevent falls.
The Mayo Clinic recommends starting with weight shifts:
This simple exercise involves standing on one leg to train your balance:
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this sit-to-stand exercise helps build leg strength and improve balance:
Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese practice of gentle exercise and stretching, is a well-known way to improve balance. Studies have found that Tai Chi is effective at preventing falls and even easing the fear of falling in aging adults.
This practice involves a series of slow, focused movements that ease into one another, keeping your body in motion at all times. To practice this activity, you may try finding Tai Chi classes in your area or even looking for tutorials online.
If you have balance-related issues, symptoms of a balance disorder, or any other serious health condition, it is always important to talk to your doctor before attempting any new exercise regimen.
Always make sure you are well hydrated before exercising, and take breaks when you need to to ensure safety.
Understanding your body’s unique needs is the key to maintaining health as you age. A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, is a great tool to help you understand how your diet and lifestyle habits are affecting your body.
When you join NutriSense, you’ll gain access to our innovative app that helps you interpret your blood glucose data and track how your diet, physical activity, sleep, and daily routine impact your health.
You’ll also be paired with a credentialed dietitian who can help you interpret your data and make the lifestyle changes you need to maintain optimal health as you age.
See how NutriSense’s CGM program can help you start your journey to optimal health today.
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