I’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.