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Living with Vertigo: Tips for a Balanced Life

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By Dr. Jyotirmay S Hegde

You might have experienced vertigo when you look down from a tall height and suddenly feel dizzy, with a sensation like butterflies in your stomach. This is called vertigo and it is a fairly common issue that most people face. This happens because your brain gets mixed signals about your body’s position, especially when you’re on the edge of a tall building or looking down from a height. This conflicting information can make you feel unsteady or dizzy, which is a common symptom of vertigo.

Vertigo covers a range of feelings such as feeling faint, light-headed, or unsteady, along with the sensation of spinning or motion while you’re still. It’s often connected to problems in the inner ear or brain. You don’t have to be at a high place to experience vertigo; it can happen even on a flat surface. You may feel like you’re spinning, tilting, swaying, or moving, which can affect your daily life and make it hard to keep your balance.

Vertigo can have various causes, and although there isn’t clear evidence directly linking it to genetics, some conditions that contribute to vertigo may have genetic components. Inner ear problems like Meniere’s disease or vestibular neuritis, a tendency to have migraines, aging, head injuries, certain medications, vestibular disorders, dehydration, and anemia can all play a role in causing vertigo. While genetic factors might make someone more prone to conditions related to vertigo, it’s usually a mix of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that lead to its occurrence.

It’s important for everyone, especially women, to take care of their inner ear health to prevent vertigo. This means avoiding loud noises, protecting ears from infections, managing stress, and having a balanced diet with enough vitamin D and magnesium. Women may be particularly affected due to hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause, which can influence inner ear function and make them more prone to vertigo. Additionally, conditions like osteoporosis, which are more common in women, can indirectly impact inner ear health. However, vertigo is a concern for both genders and is part of overall health maintenance and prevention strategies for everyone.

To manage vertigo at home, there are several self-care tips you can follow. These include making sure you drink enough water to stay hydrated, avoiding sudden movements that can trigger vertigo episodes, getting enough rest, and practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Specific physical therapy exercises like the Epley maneuver can also be helpful in relieving symptoms. It’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle overall, which includes managing stress, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced diet. These lifestyle changes can contribute to your overall well-being and may help reduce the impact of vertigo.

Lifestyle choices like stress, not getting enough sleep, being dehydrated, consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, and having poor eating habits can make vertigo worse or trigger it. Certain dietary factors such as dehydration, consuming too much salt or caffeine, can make symptoms worse by affecting fluid balance, blood pressure, and how the inner ear works. While these lifestyle factors may not directly cause vertigo, they can make someone more likely to have episodes or make existing symptoms worse. Not getting enough sleep can affect how well your brain works, including its ability to maintain balance. If you don’t drink enough fluids, it can lower your blood volume and change your blood pressure, which affects the flow of oxygen to your brain and inner ear, leading to balance issues. Caffeine and alcohol can both affect blood flow and disrupt how the inner ear works, which can contribute to vertigo symptoms. Not having enough essential nutrients in your diet, like vitamin D and magnesium, can affect your overall health, including the health of your inner ear. A lack of these nutrients may contribute to conditions that cause vertigo.

Engaging in vestibular rehabilitation exercises can be beneficial for reducing vertigo symptoms by aiding in the adaptation and compensation of the vestibular system. It’s important for individuals experiencing vertigo to steer clear of activities that involve rapid head movements or positions that can trigger episodes. The outlook for vertigo varies depending on its root cause, with some cases being manageable or treatable while others may persist chronically or recur.

In summary, vertigo is a complex condition influenced by problems in the inner ear and lifestyle factors. Conditions like Meniere’s disease and migraines can contribute to its occurrence, and although genetic connections are being investigated, lifestyle aspects such as stress and diet also have a significant impact. Taking a comprehensive approach, including personalized guidance from ENT specialists or doctors, is essential for managing vertigo and enhancing overall well-being.

*Dr. Jyotirmay S Hegde is  HOD & Lead Consultant ENT, Aster Whitefield Hospital, Bengaluru

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