Mobility can be impacted significantly if balance issues arise. “Decline in balance can be attributed to several things, but while there can be decline, falling is not a normal aging process,” says Kristen Luttrell, DPT at Masonic Homes of Kentucky. Deficiencies in strength, visual or cognitive changes, or nerve damage could lead to balance issues. Medicines can also play a role. “Taking multiple medications, and how they react with each other, can cause problems. Medicines that come with a risk of dehydration or drops in blood pressure can also cause balance issues,” says Kristen.
Mobility is key to staying healthy and living independently. You should monitor signs of balance issues. “Close call “falls” are an indicator that you may be having issues and should not be ignored,” says Kristen. Signs of balance issues include reaching for solid surfaces to walk, feeling dizzy when standing or moving, decreasing activity levels for fear of falling, or tripping or catching your toes when walking. If you notice these signs, share them with your doctor.
Solution 1: Stay Safe at Home
Stay active and keep your muscles strong to stay mobile. Proper hydration is also key. “Some people will limit their fluid intake because getting to the restroom becomes harder, but dehydration can lead to further balance issues. It can become a vicious cycle,” says Kristen.
If you notice changes in balance or mobility, modify your environment to keep it safe. Reduce clutter, have adequate lighting, and wear the appropriate footwear. “Bathrooms are the most common spots for falls that lead to injury,” says Kristen. She suggests adding grab bars, adjusting the height of your toilet, and adding nonslip strips to increase safety. “Dry off as much as possible in the shower to prevent getting water on the floor and creating an additional fall risk,” advises Kristen.
Solution 2: Partner with Your Primary Care Physician
“Talk to your primary care physician right away if you have balance concerns,” says Kristen. Your doctor can pinpoint the reason for your issue, and if needed, refer you to a physical or occupational therapist. “A physical therapist can work on ankle and hip strategies which will strengthen the appropriate muscles to allow you to react quicker and find your center of mass,” says Kristen. At your annual physical, request a balance assessment so that you can track changes over time.
By Tami Pyles