Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
There are some simple, common-sense ways to reduce the impact of loss of balance or a dizzy spell.
Tips to Prevent Loss of Balance
- Sit or lie down right away if you feel dizzy.
- During a vertigo attack, avoid things that will make the sensations worse. Move slowly and try not to change the position of your head. Rest your eyes by staying away from bright lights and television. Don’t try to read.
- Rest as much as you can and don’t try to go back to your regular activities before you are ready.
- Don’t smoke.
- Avoid exposure to things that may congest your sinuses.
- Try to manage your stress and anxiety levels. Medications or psychotherapy are both effective.
Researchers have found that the following exercise routines and strategies can improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling:
- Tai Chi, dance, postural awareness, or yoga programs
- Gait training (programs to improve the way you walk)
- Strengthening and resistance exercises
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapy. This is a special program of exercises and activities designed to retrain your body and brain to work together to optimize balance.
Some changes in your diet may be quite helpful, depending on your diagnosis. Generally, it is important to eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid too much alcohol intake.
If you have Meniere’s disease, your doctor may suggest the following:
- Avoid caffeine (in coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas) since stimulation from caffeine may make symptoms like tinnitus worse.
- Eat six small meals daily rather than three large ones, and eat and drink the same amounts each time.
- Reduce your daily salt intake to less than 1,500 mg to reduce fluid retention.
- Avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG), a meat tenderizer and flavor enhancer. MSG may cause fluid retention.
If you have sudden low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension), you should:
- Drink plenty of fluids every day.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Consider increasing your salt intake to encourage fluid retention (if you don’t have high blood pressure between hypotension episodes). Check with your healthcare professional to see if it is safe for you to increase your salt.
Other Non-Drug Therapies
Corrective Devices for Sensory Deficits
Hearing aids and properly prescribed eyeglasses can help reduce symptoms of dizziness and disequilibrium. Get treatment for cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration if you have any of these conditions.
Physiotherapists are trained to help you choose an assistive device or walking aid, depending on your balance problem and health status. These range from a simple walking cane to more elaborate walkers and wheelchairs. Your walking aid must be carefully matched to your particular needs.
Walking aids can keep you living safely and independently when they are properly used.
Dizziness, loss of balance, and vertigo can increase the risk for:
- Dehydration: if nausea has produced frequent, uncontrolled vomiting
- Car accidents: from driving while experiencing symptoms of dizziness or vertigo
- Depression or anxiety: due to difficulties in carrying on your normal activities and reduced quality of life
- Permanent hearing loss
- Stroke, brain damage or dementia: In very rare cases of frequent blood pressure swings, you may increase your risk for these complications.
- Falls and fractures
The increased risk of falls and fractures is the most serious complication of balance problems. Visiting nurses or occupational therapists trained to evaluate home safety can check to make sure that your home is risk-free. They often recommend some changes be made, such as:
- better lighting
- removing obstacles and hazards like loose rugs, electrical wires, unstable furniture
- placing handrails in hallways, bathrooms, and on stairs.
Other lifestyle approaches to reduce falls include:
- using proper footwear
- making adjustments in medication
- exercising including balance improvement programs.
If you have a chronic balance problem, it can affect all aspects of your life. This may include social and family relationships, work, home functions, and relaxation. Support groups can give you the encouragement and understanding that only comes from sharing the challenges that you experience with others.
Support groups are also good sources of information and tips for coping. Ask your healthcare professional to recommend a support group in your area if you would like to share your experiences and meet others who are working on the same challenges in their lives.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012