The Importance of Maintaining Your Balance

Falls are the number one reason for people over the age of 40 to go to an emergency room, and falls in people over 70 can have long-term, life-affecting consequences.

As we grow older, the number of nerve cells in our vestibular system (the system that maintains balance) naturally decreases. This and any other condition that impairs circulation (such as heart disease or diabetes) can have an adverse affect on the inner ear which can cause a dizzy or unsteady feeling.

Here are six things you can do to help maintain your balance.

Build your core strength. Any exercise that helps your body remain still while standing will help maintain balance such as sitting on a balance ball, using a balance platform (carefully), or standing on one leg for a few seconds at a time.

Tai Chi or Yoga are exercise regimens that improve posture, gait, core strength and flexibility. One caution for people who already have any type of vertigo, these exercises can worsen the vertigo at first. Please consult your ENT or vertigo specialist before you begin a new exercise regimen.

Watch for clutter. Every day we encounter busy spaces–stores, offices, crowded sidewalks–even our homes. In places with a lot of clutter, it is important to maintain visual focus while walking or moving to avoid falls.

Become aware of visual weaknesses that cause you to become unsteady such as escalators, tile floors with checkered patterns or the atria of buildings with non-square walls. In these environments, you may need to use handrails or ask for assistance to avoid a fall.

Where appropriate, take off your shoes. Your feet have important receptors that help with spacial orientation and walking bare foot helps to activate those receptors. On surfaces that could be slippery or uneven, however, it is best to wear slip-resistant socks or shoes with sturdy soles.

Change positions slowly. When you go from lying down to seated, or from seated to standing, take your time. It is not uncommon to become light-headed if you change positions too quickly. If this situation persists, however, even when changing positions slowly, you should consult your doctor to rule out other, more serious causes.

If you do fall, neuromuscular massage is one way to regain muscle flexibility and range of motion from any area that was injured in the fall.

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