For young people, balance issues are just interpreted as clumsiness and are usually just a minor inconvenience. For seniors, they can be debilitating and even life threatening. Even a minor fall can leave older people bedridden and depressed and increase the chances of death from illnesses and other unrelated causes.
A balance disorder is usually characterized by unsteadiness in performing daily talks like standing up, climbing stairs and walking. It can also be accompanied by a feeling of vertigo, or a sensation that the room around you is spinning. Depending on the issues, you may be unsteady occasionally, or have trouble more often while standing up or trying to walk.
In a study involving 92 aged care residents, supplementation with a multivitamin was found to significantly improve nutritional status and bone health, and was associated with a reduction in falls. The results of this study suggest that multivitamin supplementation among the elderly may not only help to improve nutritional status, including vitamin D status, but may also have a positive impact on bone density and reduce the risk of falls, thereby reducing the risk of fractures.
Up to ten percent of people over 65 have some sort of balance problem, but there are several issues that can affect balance. Some of these problems are just a normal part of aging, while others can be an indicator of a more serious health concern. Here are some of the most common causes of balance issues in seniors.
- Inner ear problems. This is the most common cause of balance issues in seniors and is likely if you regularly experience vertigo, especially when tilting your head or changing body positions. They can be caused by swelling or infection inside the inner ear, or calcium stones that form and break loose. Most of these disorders are benign and treatable, but some can lead to hearing loss and other issues, so you should get your hearing checked and keep your doctor informed to be sure.
- Medication. If your parent has recently started taking a new medicine, it may be the cause of their balance problems. Ask their doctor if balance problems are associated with the medicine. They may be able to change the prescription to something without this side effect. Medications known to commonly cause dizziness are blood pressure medications and certain antibiotics.
- Heart Problems. If the heart isn’t pumping blood properly, you can have balance issues because not enough blood is making it to the brain. This is one reason it is so important not to ignore balance issues, because they may indicate a serious problem.
- Poor circulation. We already know you can experience balance issues if you don’t get enough blood to your brain, but heart issues aren’t the only cause of this problem. Your doctor can recommend medication or other treatments to improve blood flow.
If you or your parent has had balance problems, you should contact your doctor to let them know about your symptoms. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of the balance issue, but it will often include exercises and stretches to strengthen muscles and improve balance. While these may not solve the root cause of the problem, they will help you manage it better and reduce the risk of a fall and injuries.