Manage Vertigo, Improve Your Balance

Vertigo got you down? How to prevent falls

man and banana peel on floor

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits—and the main cause of accidental deaths—among Americans 65 and older.

“Many falls are due to dizziness, or vertigo, which is a common medical problem,” says Judith White, MD, PhD, medical director of the new Balance, Dizziness and Fall Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic’s Beachwood Family Health and Surgery Center. “Dizziness is a serious condition because it increases a person’s risk of falling by 13 times.”

With winter approaching, people should be especially cautious. “Ice and snow are huge amplifiers for falls,” Dr. White says. “But so are wet floors, uneven pavement and even rugs. If you have any concerns about your balance, get checked by a doctor before you fall.”

What causes vertigo?

In most cases, vertigo is caused by an imbalance in the inner ear and nervous system. These imbalances are called vestibular disorders and may be accompanied by hearing loss.

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“A recent study showed that 35 percent of American adults aged 40 and older have evidence of vestibular disorder,” Dr. White says. “If anyone experiences dizziness or balance difficulties, they should ask their physician to refer them to a vestibular specialist. There are many things that can be done to resolve or help the problem.”

To prevent falls, Dr. White recommends the following:

1. Get strong

A strong body, particularly your core, will improve your balance and help you avoid falls. Consult a doctor first, but you could try tai chi, yoga or even standard strength training.

2. Use handrails

Always use handrails when walking up and down stairs. Falls can happen at any age. Making it a rule to use the handrails could save you from a serious injury.

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3. Remove hazardous items from the floor

Remove hazardous items from the floor that may trip people, such as stools and scatter rugs.

4. Wear flatter, flexible shoes with good tread

For women, it’s tempting to wear high heels, but flats are a safer option if you are worried about losing your balance. For men and women, be sure to wear shoes that have a good tread so you don’t slip on slippery floors.

5. Safety-proof your home

Place hand grips in the bath and shower and always use handrails when walking up and down stairs.

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  • Chloe

    I had an auto accident jn 1999. I’ve had 2 lower lumbar surgeries. I always thought I had a problem with my rgt leg because I always bared off to the right. I found out last month that it was vertigo, my irises were uneven. I now have glasses with prisms. Im wondering if I should have my inner ears checked?

  • Sally Nolen

    I tripped on a concrete seam on a sloping porch and nosedived on concrete…cleared five stairs but landed on my (bad) knee. I recommend using handrails on both sides of stairs for those who might need extra help…yikes!

  • Lucia Ruocchio

    I have a condition called BPPV which is positional vertigo along with Tinnitus (white noise and ringing) in both ears. I can’t lay flat, nor can I look directly above me without becoming dizzy. I’ve been to an ear specialist who performed a maneuver on me that clears my condition considerably. He no longer accepts my medical insurance :( and I’m having a difficult time finding another doctor who knows the maneuver. Thinking I could have my hubby do the maneuver for me, I viewed a YouTube video to perfect the positions required to correctly do the maneuver. However, my last doctor informed me that if I didn’t do it right, I could make my condition worse. Is this true?

    • Paula Hupp

      Sometimes this happens to me. Laying flat and looking up I get extremely dizzy, Not all the time. I have a hospital bed and raise the head fast as I can when this happens. I sleep with it up and the feet up all the time.

  • Paula Hupp

    Found out most of my dizzy spells were due to medicine. Have had that happen before with meds. Some times it is because of sinus infection. Most of the time it was the meds, though.

  • Sandy

    I also have BPPV… I went to therapy and they taught me the Epley …. told me to do it my self when needed… they said that I could not hurt myself doing it… good luck… it is also on Utube… Scary isn’t it? Sometimes I am afraid to move..

  • MK

    I just got over my first bout (and hopefully my last) of vertigo. It lasted over 5 weeks and was so debilitating. I seem to be over it, but am so scared it’s going to come back again. I went to the ER when it first came on, and they immediately ran an MRI because I had stroke symptoms, MS symptoms, and some others too. They ended up diagnosing it as benign vertigo, but recommended I see several specialists, including hearing & balance center, ENT, neurologist, opthomologist. I am a caregiver for my brother who lives with my husband and me. He is blind and had Down syndrome and some other disabilities. It was horrible to not be able to care for him like I do daily. So glad it’s over (for now). But still concerned it can come back without any notice. My heart goes out to anyone who has this or has experienced this.