There are many things that can make people in Reno feel off-balance. The six o’clock news springs immediately to mind, but we’re not speaking figuratively here. Dizziness affects all of us from time to time; most often it passes quickly and is nothing to worry about, but sometimes poor balance can be indicative of a bigger problem.
The Hazards of Falling
Falls are a major concern for older individuals in Reno, especially those over the age of 65. It’s the leading cause of injury and injury-related death for Nevadans in this age group. There’s a reason falls are such a serious problem for seniors: they can reduce your mobility and have a significant impact on your independence – two factors that correlate with a higher mortality rate. The sad truth is, one out of every five people who suffer a hip fracture as a result of falling die within a year.
There are seven main reasons why people have a higher risk of falling as they grow older. Balance problems can result from any of the following:
- Declining vision. The human balance system relies on visual cues to function efficiently. Vison declines with age; this can cause balance difficulties. Those with poor vision may misjudge distances, causing them to fall. In order to decrease your risk of falling as you get older, regular vision exams are recommended.
- Hearing loss. You may not realize how important good hearing is to keeping you on your feet! The human balance system depends upon sensory input from both your eyes and ears; a hearing impairment can send false signals to the brain, leading to unsteadiness. Just as annual vision exams are important as you age, hearing checkups can also help prevent falls.
- Medications. Side effects of many over-the-counter and prescription medications can interfere with balance and coordination. Blood pressure medications are particularly notorious at causing dizziness and lightheadedness, which increase your risk of falling. If you are taking drugs that affect your balance, practice rising slowly from a seated position in order to avoid a rush of blood to the head.
- Lack of sleep. Good sleep is crucial for overall health. Lack of sleep leads to dulled reflexes and slower reaction times, which can contribute to tripping and falling over objects. Experts recommend 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Maintain a regular bedtime routine every night, even on weekends, giving yourself ample time to relax before climbing beneath the sheets.
- Alcohol. Many people like to unwind after work with a glass of wine or a beer. If you do choose to imbibe, limit yourself to no more than a glass or two early in the evening. Alcohol dulls your reaction times, which can throw you off balance. The older you get, the more pronounced its effects.
- Diabetes. Diabetics are most concerned with high blood sugar levels, but low glucose levels also cause problems. When your blood sugar is low, you are more likely to experience dizziness or loss of consciousness. People with diabetes should check their blood sugar levels regularly and be sure to carry an emergency piece of candy in the event of a sudden drop in blood sugar.
- Clutter. Household clutter isn’t only unsightly; it can be dangerous, too. Nine million emergency room visits annually are a result of falls in the home, often the result of tripping over objects. Keeping your house tidy and neat will help reduce your risk of ending up in the ER.
An occasional sensation of lightheadedness isn’t too troublesome, but if you or a loved one is experiencing regular bouts of dizziness, schedule an appointment with a Reno audiologist as soon as you can.