Balance is a foundational aspect of maintaining your health. This can mean following a balanced diet or balancing exercise with rest, but it also applies in the most literal physical sense of keeping your balance.
Balance problems are of particular concern for Savers, since one outcome of poor balance is falls, and falls can lead to fractures. Today we'll look at the causes of poor balance, and how to maintain and improve it to protect your bones.
The Effects Of Poor Balance
Falls and fractures are the most common danger posed by poor balance. However, there are other negative outcomes as well. In severe cases, poor balance may include dizziness that prevents standing or moving around at all. Lesser cases can impair your ability to do everyday tasks or drive safely.
Less serious balance issues may result in the inability to walk in a straight line or to move around obstacles easily. This could impair your ability to work or result in continual bumps, bruises, and embarrassment.
These less severe outcomes might also be your first clue that you have poor balance. Others include an inability to stand on one leg at a time while putting on pants, or if you can't stand still with your feet together and eyes closed.
You can use either activity as a test of your baseline balance. Over time, it’s important to pay attention to your balance, as age is a leading cause of poor balance, for reasons we'll examine next.
Poor balance can lead to falls that can end up in fractures. Severe cases can be caused dizziness that prevents standing or moving around and impairs your ability to work or drive. If you can't walk in a straight line, if you often bump into things, or you can't stand still with your feet together and eyes closed, you likely have poor balance.
What Causes Poor Balance?
A number of factors may cause poor balance, many of which are linked to aging. Other factors are related to the inner ear, which includes the vestibular system. This system gathers information relating to equilibrium, spatial orientation, and movement to help us remain oriented and keep our balance.
- Poor Eyesight – Our eyesight has a close relationship to our vestibular system, providing essential information about our orientation in space. Reduced vision can impair that information, leading to imbalance. That's an additional reason why poor eyesight can lead to falls and fractures.
- Weakness – As we age, we lose muscle mass — so to maintain our strength we must exercise regularly. Core strength is especially critical for balance, so if you don't have a strong core, you won't have good balance either.
- Arthritis – Arthritis can impair movement, making it more difficult to keep your balance.
- Neurological Disorders – If your inability to balance includes feeling lightheaded or seeing the room spin, then you may be suffering from vertigo. Sometimes imbalance from vertigo is a sign of stroke, if sudden and paired with symptoms like numbness or speech problems. Dementia can also reduce balance, as can Parkinson's disease.
- Inner Ear Problems – Because the vestibular system is part of the inner ear, disorders of the inner ear often impact balance. In people with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, certain head movements disrupt particles in the inner ear causing dizziness, spinning, lightheadedness, and nausea. While rarely serious, some people require physical therapy to recalibrate their vestibular system. In less common cases, the problems might be caused by benign growths impinging on nerves, or by infections.
- Blood Pressure Imbalance – Abnormally high or low blood pressure can cause dizziness and a loss of balance.
- Nerve Damage – Nerves throughout the body are important for maintaining your balance, since the nervous system provides the brain with information about where body parts are in space. Nerve damage resulting in peripheral neuropathy can disrupt the flow of this information, leading to poor balance. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by diabetes, chemotherapy, infection, trauma, nutrient deficiencies, and even alcoholism.
- Medications – Many medications cause loss of balance as one of their side effects. The more drugs you take, the more likely you are to suffer severe side effects, sometimes caused by drug interactions. As we age, our bodies respond to drugs differently, and we're more likely to be over-prescribed with new medications. Taking multiple prescription drugs increases the risk of falls and fractures, in part due to reduced balance.1
- Sea Travel – Seasickness can extend beyond nausea while you're on the waves. Sometimes sea travel can cause balance problems that take time to self-correct, from a few hours, to as long as a few months.
Causes of poor balance include poor eyesight, weakness, arthritis, neurological disorders, inner ear problems, blood pressure imbalance, nerve damage, and prescription medications, particularly when multiple drugs are taken.
Rebuilding Your Balance
Fortunately, in most cases lost balance can be regained, and the balance you have can be maintained and strengthened. Even in cases where the loss of balance was caused by a neurological disorder, there are specific interventions that can help. For those extreme cases, physical therapy or even surgery of the inner ear may be recommended by a medical professional.
For most people, a combination of exercise and dietary adjustments can have a profound impact on balance. In particular, exercises that focus on core strength, building muscle, and balancing will help. Yoga or other exercises that use poses and slow movement can be especially beneficial. Studies have found that balance training programs that included stretching, walking, and balance-targeted poses and movements reduced the risk of fracture.2
The Save Institute's pH-balanced diet contains all of the nutrients you need to maintain neurological health, muscle strength, and strong balance.
In extreme cases, therapy or minor surgery might be needed to correct a serious balance-impairing condition. For everyone else, a combination of regular core-strengthening exercise and a healthy diet can help to build and maintain balance.
What This Means To You
Like most health pursuits, there are many paths to increased balance, and the most important choice you can make is to get started.
That's why the Save Institute's online guided exercise platform, SaveTrainer, offers workout classes designed to build balance. Through a combination of caring for your blood pressure and neurological health, building core strength, and doing balance training, you can maintain your faculties to live a rich and active life!