What Causes Dizziness and Balance Problems in Seniors?

What Causes Dizziness and Balance Problems in Seniors?

As you’ve gotten older, have you noticed that you seem to get dizzy more often? Are you less steady on your feet or have trouble moving across the floor? Do you sometimes feel dizzy?

Dizziness and balance problems are common in seniors – but why? What is it about the body or the brain that leads to unsteadiness and the increased risk of falling in aging adults?

The problem is a significant one and it gets worse as you get older. According to a study published in Seminars in Hearing, more than half of those over the age of 60 suffer from dizziness or loss of balance, often on a daily basis. That number rises to three in four for those aged 70 or above, and goes even higher for those over the age of 80.1

So it’s important to remember that if you are a senior who suffers from sudden bouts of dizziness, or even dizziness and balance problems that linger and cause problems with your day-to-day life, you are not alone!

Problems with dizzy spells, vertigo, or maintaining your balance are all serious issues that lead to a greatly increased risk of falls. Medical alert systems help protect seniors from the dire consequences of those falls, especially the risk of lying on the floor for a long period of time while waiting for help to arrive. With a medical alert pendant, simply pressing the medical alarm button gets help headed your way in moments.

But while it’s a good idea to opt for the safety and security of an affordable personal emergency response system, there’s still the question: what in the world is causing that dizziness? What is behind the balance issues that plague the elderly?

What Causes Balance Issues and Dizziness?

Problems with balance, dizziness, vertigo, and even feeling lightheaded all go hand-in-hand, but they can be notoriously hard to treat. That’s because there are so many things that can cause the issues. And it’s often not just one thing that causes them – it can be a combination of small problems that add up to a bigger one. Treating that might take a lot of sleuthing by your doctor as well as trial and error to find the right solutions.

Here are some of the most common causes for dizziness in seniors.

·        Low blood pressure. If you feel dizzy when you stand up and need a moment to steady yourself, that might be because your blood pressure dips upon rising. This is known as orthostatic hypotension. This can happen to anyone of any age, but it’s more common among seniors and those who are on blood pressure medication.

·        Medications. Obviously medications for hypertension can be a problem, but there are plenty of others that can have dizziness as a side effect. This is especially true if the medication affects your heart rate. Dizziness can also be caused by medications interacting in the body – even if they are okay to take together, the blending of those ingredients in the body can lead to side effects unique to that combination of medications.

·        Cardiovascular problems. Issues with heart rate, blood flow, arrhythmia, heart disease and other conditions that affect the heart can lead to problems with blood getting to where it should go, and that can lead to dizziness or feeling faint.

·        Stroke. Though it might seem obvious that a severe stroke can lead to dizziness and many other related problems, even smaller strokes that you might barely notice – known as transient ischemic attacks – can lead to temporary balance issues.

·        Inner ear problems. Anything that affects the ear can affect your balance. These problems might be straightforward and very easy to treat, such as an ear infection. But others might be more involved, such as Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, also known as BPPV.

·        Dehydration. As we get older, we start to lose the sensation of thirst. That is one of the many things that can lead to dehydration in older adults. Dehydration can make you feel pretty awful and can affect every part of your body.

·        Anxiety. At first blush, you might think that anxiety is “all in your head.” But the fact is that anxiety can come along with the fight or flight response as well as other physical effects – that leads to elevated heart rate and a host of other problems, including dizziness or even vertigo.

·        Neurological conditions. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and dementia can wreak havoc on the body and brain in a variety of ways. While these conditions do have a typical progression, they can affect each person differently. Dizziness and other balance problems can come along with any of these conditions and others that affect the brain.

·        Anemia. If the levels of iron in your blood are too low, you might suffer from a wide variety of problems, including dizziness, feeling lightheaded, and suffering from extreme fatigue. Any of these problems increase your fall risk significantly.

·        Vision issues. Problems with your eyes can lead to headaches, dizziness, vertigo, and even a feeling of nausea. And of course, vision problems are much more likely to lead to balance issues and falls.

Though some physical issues might not lead to dizziness, they can definitely lead to balance issues. For instance, muscle weakness is rather common among older adults; the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reports that 20% of those over the age of 70 have sarcopenia, which is a loss of muscle mass and strength.2 Foot problems, such as diabetic neuropathy, can contribute to balance problems, as can arthritis in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

As we get older, chronic conditions become more likely. In fact, The National Institute on Aging tells us that 85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and 60% have at least two.3 On top of the common conditions that can easily lead to dizziness and balance problems, the vestibular system – related to problems of the inner ear – can become less sensitive over the years and in turn, become less effective at helping you maintain your balance. As you can imagine, one problem can contribute to another, and eventually you are dealing with dizziness and balance issues on a regular basis.

If you have any of the problems listed above, now is an excellent time to consider a senior life-saving alert system. Mobile medical alerts for seniors can accompany you everywhere in your home, including in the shower. An on-the-go emergency button alarm goes with you as you are out and about, anywhere from your local grocery store to hiking in the mountains many states away! No matter where the dizziness hits, you’re covered with Alert1.

Treatment for Dizziness and Balance Issues

If you’re unsteady on your feet, talk to your doctor. They will want to know as many details as you can provide, so it’s a good idea to keep a journal to note when you feel dizzy or are experiencing other health issues.

If the dizziness becomes severe before your appointment, it’s a good idea to not only wear an emergency button alert system with fall detection device, but to also take someone you trust with you to the appointment. You might need a helping hand as you move around.

What can you expect from treatment? That depends on what is causing the problem. Definitely expect your doctor to run a variety of laboratory tests and take you through a medication review. Here are some of the potential options:

·        Change of medication. If you are on something that might cause dizziness, your doctor could find another drug that treats the same thing without the nasty side effects. Some medications, such as anti-nausea meds, can actually help alleviate dizziness.

·        Exercise for balance improvement. Your doctor might recommend things like stretching, tai chi, the use of resistance bands, and other exercises that improve your balance. The stronger you are means that even if you do get dizzy, you are less likely to fall down.

·        Nutrition changes. If you have anemia, you might be told to get more iron in your diet. If you have diabetes, you might be tasked with keeping your blood sugar under better control through eating the proper foods. If you have generalized weakness, your doctor might send you to a nutritionist who can create a diet just for your needs.

·        Repositioning maneuvers. This is a type of physical therapy that can treat vestibular problems, especially BPPV. The idea is to shift the tiny crystals that naturally form in the inner ear back to their original position, which can alleviate dizziness and balance problems almost immediately.

·        Rehabilitation therapy. This is physical therapy that specifically focuses on reducing dizziness, improving balance, and thus helping you perform daily activities without being sidelined by the conditions. Rather than having the goal of helping you overcome the problems, this type of physical therapy aims to help you learn to live with them in a productive way.

When you are working to alleviate problems with dizziness and balance, your doctor will want you to stay as safe as possible. In addition to opting for a medical alert system with fall detection, your doctor will likely prescribe assistive devices, such as walkers or canes that can help you stay steady when the dizziness hits. Aging in place solutions, such as grab bars and better lighting, can help. Fall prevention strategies can help ensure that you cover all the bases and stay as safe as possible.