Many people will experience balance problems as they age. Common symptoms of balance problems include:
- Occasional feelings of unsteadiness or sudden dizziness are not uncommon
- Vertigo, the feeling that you or the things around you are spinning, is another often-reported symptom
- Disturbances of the inner ear are a common cause of these events
Falls and fall-related injuries, such as hip fracture, can have a serious impact on an older person's life. If you fall, it could limit your activities or make it impossible to live independently. And in many instances, people become more isolated after a fall.
More than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths. More commonly, falls can lead to a prolonged period of rehabilitation, diminished function, depression and declining health.
Here are some of the more common types of balance disorders:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – In BPPV, you experience a brief, intense feeling of vertigo or sudden dizziness when you change the position of your head, such as when rolling over to the left or right, upon getting out of bed, or when looking for an object on a high or low shelf. In BPPV, small calcium particles in the inner ear become displaced and hit the inner ear balance sensors, causing dizziness. A doctor or specialist can treat BPPV by carefully moving the head and torso to dislodge these particles. For some people, one session will be all that is needed. Others might need to repeat the procedure several times at home to relieve their dizziness.
- Labyrinthitis – Inflammation of the vestibular system, the part of the inner ear responsible for balance. To maintain your body's position, the labyrinth interacts with other systems in the body, such as the eyes, bones and joints. The cause is usually a viral infection, or less often, a bacterial infection.
- Ménière's disease – This is a balance disorder that causes a person to experience vertigo, hearing loss that comes and goes, tinnitus (a ringing or roaring in the ears), and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Ménière's disease is caused by changes in fluid volumes in the inner ear. People with Ménière's disease can help reduce its dizzying effects by lowering the amount of sodium in their diets. Limiting alcohol and caffeine also may be helpful.
Certain specific exercises help make up for a balance disorder by moving the head and body in certain ways. These exercises are developed especially for a patient by a professional who understands the balance system and its relationship with other systems in the body.
Specific nutrients that may be beneficial are:
- Magnesium (Grain, nuts, beans, green vegetables and bananas)
- Calcium (Yogurt, milk and cheese, green leafy vegetables)
- Potassium (Fresh fruits and vegetables)
Herbals to help vertigo:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Blessed thistle
- Gotu Kola
- Cocculus compositum (Vertigoheel)
Natural anti-inflammatory supplements:
- Omega-3 (fish oil)
- Ginger root extract
- Cat’s Claw
Other natural practices that may help:
- T’ai Chi
- Qi Gong