Improve Your Balance
Losing your balance and falling down is serious business. In fact,  falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults and it’s becoming more common. Death rates from falls have risen sharply over the past decade. To maintain your independence and reduce your risk of serious injury from a fall follow these 5 amazingly simple ways to improve your balance and avoid falling.
Have Your Eyes Checked
Your vision plays an important role in helping you maintain your balance and avoid a fall. Beyond seeing hazards and obstacles, your vision helps determine your orientation and enhances your spatial awareness.  By taking in information about horizontal and verticle objects, your eyes send messages to your brain helping you stay oriented and level.
Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your prescriptions if necessary. It may also be helpful to get a pair of prescription sunglasses to improve your vision in sunny, bright conditions outside.
Take Care of Your Ears
 The vestibular system is the part of your inner ear and is responsible for helping maintain your balance. Often, issues with balance, such as vertigo or dizziness, are associated with an inner ear issue. One common balance disorder is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV. While the cause is unknown, BPPV is caused by small calcium particles which become displaced inside the inner ear.
Normally, these calcium particles move in the inner ear to help you maintain your balance but if they are displaced, due to something like an infection, they can send false signals to your brain. This can trigger vertigo, dizziness or a sensation of being “off-balance”. BPPV is most likely to occur in adults over the age of 60. If you experience vertigo or dizziness see your doctor. He or she can generally determine if BPPV is the cause and offer treatment.
Review Your Medications
Many prescription and over the counter medications can cause you to feel dizzy or drowsy. Both of these side effects could impair your sense of balance and result in a fall. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your prescription and over the counter medications to look for interactions or any side effects that might leave you drowsy or dizzy.
Engaging in exercises that help strengthen your leg muscles, core muscles and increase your flexibility will help improve your balance. Forms of exercise like Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi have been shown to provide a host of positive health benefits, among them improved balance and flexibility. Also weight-bearing exercises like walking, and swimming can help increase, muscle strength and bone density which help provide stability.
Also, The National Institue on Ageing has some specific exercises designed to help improve your balance.
 Being dehydrated can cause confusion, low blood pressure and loss of balance. It’s easy to become dehydrated without realizing it, especially in warmer weather. Medications and specific medical conditions like diabetes can also play a factor in dehydration. Stay well hydrated by consuming the proper amount of water for your weight per day.
Here’s an easy guide to determine how much water you should be drinking each day. Divide your weight, in pounds, in half. The result is the amount of water, in fluid ounces, you should consume daily. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds you need to consume 90 ounces of water each day to stay properly hydrated.
The CDC cautions that…
“…Some people may have fluid restrictions because of a health problem, such as kidney disease. If your healthcare provider has told you to restrict your fluid intake, be sure to follow that advice. Under normal conditions, most people can drink enough fluids to meet their water needs. If you are outside in hot weather for most of the day or doing vigorous activity, you may need to increase your fluid intake.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Improving your balance can help you avoid a fall that could leave you injured, immobile or worse. Taking steps to improve your balance is as easy as getting regular check-ups, exercising and staying well hydrated. Check out the resources below for more helpful information on how to reduce your risk of falling.
The Virginia Division for the Ageing has a helpful checklist to reduce your risk of falls at home.
Download this Free Guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with more suggestions for improving your balance and reducing your risk of falls
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. Accessed August 15, 2013.
- Baldwin, R. (n.d.). Keeping Your Balance. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://nof.org/articles/15
- Balance Problems. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://nihseniorhealth.gov/balanceproblems/aboutbalanceproblems/01.html
- Aging & Health A to Z. (2012, March 1). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:falls/info:causes-and-symptoms/