How can I stop feeling off-​balance all the time?

Jane mugshot for JQAI’m a lady in my eighties and have harden­ing of the arter­ies. I am very off-​balance and have falls. I take tab­lets for my bal­ance, and also a tab­let to keep my pulse reg­u­lar, but they don’t make me feel any dif­fer­ent. I don’t get out at all. My doc­tor says my con­di­tion won’t get any worse, but that he can’t make it bet­ter. Surely there must be some­thing else that can be done?

Yes, there are things you can do to make life feel a bit bet­ter. None is a magic cure-​all, so keep an open mind and a pos­it­ive atti­tude.

People with your bal­ance prob­lem often find they can limit their feel­ings of off-​balance if they make cer­tain move­ments very care­fully. Always take your time when you change from lying to sit­ting or sit­ting to stand­ing. Get out of bed gradu­ally, start­ing with sit­ting upright, sup­por­ted by pil­lows for a few minutes, and then slowly bring­ing your­self to stand­ing.

When you get up from an arm­chair, move slowly and try to keep your head upright. Stand for a minute before you walk. And try to avoid turn­ing your head sud­denly, as this often trig­gers dizzi­ness.

Next, set about strength­en­ing your legs. Weak leg muscles are unre­li­able, and may cause you to fall. But more than that, we all have very import­ant bal­ance nerves in our legs and ankles which need to be in good con­di­tion to keep us upright and stable. Do these two exer­cises daily:

1. Tiptoe stand­ing: stand with your back to a wall and place a kit­chen chair in front of you, turned around so you can rest your fin­ger­tips on the chair-​back for sup­port. Standing tall with your feet slightly apart, rise straight up so your heels come off the ground and then slowly bring them back down again. Do this 10 times and rest. As you get bet­ter at it, try to go higher on to your toes and hold the tip­toe pos­i­tion for a couple of seconds. Click here to see the full exer­cise

2. Sit to stand: Sit close to the front of a kit­chen chair without arm-​rests. Place your hands lightly on the sides of the chair. Have your feet firmly on the ground and close in to the chair. Pull in your lower tummy, count to three, and stand up firmly. Stay there for a few seconds, then shuffle back so you can feel the chair against your legs. Pull in your lower tummy and – keep­ing your head upright – push your bot­tom back­wards, lower­ing your­self slowly back in to the chair. Rest. Repeat this 10 times if you can. Click here to see the full exer­cise

You can help your blood cir­cu­late bet­ter if you are relaxed, breath­ing well, and not feel­ing anxious. Think about an activ­ity you really enjoy and try and get your fam­ily to help you organ­ise this as a reg­u­lar thing – it might be singing in a group, draw­ing, vis­it­ing art gal­ler­ies or the lib­rary, going to the park café…. How about a relax­ing swim or a mas­sage every now and then? Again, ask your fam­ily to help organ­ise it or look up your local Age Concern in the phone book.

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