Two in five of over-40s experience dizziness or vertigo, which can stop us doing everyday things for fear of falling. Try these tips to stop the spinning.
Take the weight off your feet
If you suffer a bout of dizziness or light-headedness while standing, lie down on the sofa or bed to encourage blood flow to the brain. After a few minutes, you should feel less dizzy. Sit up gradually and stay sitting for a couple more minutes before standing – slowly. Don’t drive, use hand tools or other machinery or climb a ladder when feeling dizzy.
The incidence of postural hypotension – a fall in blood pressure when you stand up – shoots up from five in 100 people in the under 50s to three in ten aged 70+. It may be linked with heart problems and/or diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson’s, or with taking multiple medications . Take more time to stand up and hold on to something as you do.
Changes in body composition, reduced kidney function, blunted thirst, ailments, and being on multiple medications can all increase the risk of dehydration – a common cause of dizziness. Aim to drink around five eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Tap is fine, but if you dislike the taste, keep a water filter jug in your fridge and top up your glass or bottle regularly. Add a sliver of orange, lemon, lime or ginger, or a sprig of mint or lemon grass, to liven things up.
Ask for a blood test
If you haven’t had a blood count done recently, get your GP to carry one out. Iron-deficiency anaemia can be a factor in dizziness and falls. Find iron in foods such as red meat, liver, kidneys, lentils, kidney beans, dark, leafy greens, and dried fruit such as figs and apricots.
Anxiety, pain, too much caffeine, over-medication, restless legs or sleep apnoea can lead to sleeplessness – and dizziness. ‘Sleep hygiene’ – taking time to wind down before bed time, making sure your bedroom is quiet, calm and not too hot or cold, and making it strictly off limits for your mobile, tablet or laptop – can help you to more restorative nights.
Check your medicine
Taking multiple prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs, may cause dizziness as a side effect. Particular culprits include blood pressure medications, diuretics, strong painkillers and some antibiotics. Ask the doctor or pharmacist for a medication review. But be warned: you should never just stop taking a prescribed medication.
Pick up a banana
Why? To replenish blood glucose, low levels of which can cause dizziness. Other good instant pick-ups include blueberries, fruit juice, a biscuit, ice cream or honey. If you have diabetes and regularly experience bouts of dizziness accompanied by sweating and confusion (hypoglycaemia) see the doctor or diabetes nurse – your medication may need adjusting.
Mindfulness-based CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which involves becoming aware of your breathing and thoughts as well as other simple techniques, could help as part of a comprehensive programme designed to reduce the spin.
Get professional help
GPs and other non-specialists often misdiagnose dizziness. If simple steps don’t help, see a dizziness specialist as soon as you can. Ask your GP or self-refer to a physiotherapist specialising in vestibular rehabilitation, the treatment and management of dizziness – find a physiotherapist with an interest in vestibular rehabilitation
Take ginkgo biloba
You may know of this herb as a brain tonic—here are some other ways to keep your mind sharp. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine use ginkgo biloba to treat dizziness, believing that it increases circulation and blood flow to the brain.