Balance is a critical element of your overall well-being. But it’s not something you can take for granted. It can decline almost imperceptibly, and a dangerous fall can happen in a split second.

A frightening trend: Deaths from falls are on the rise in the US, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people age 65 and older who died as a result of a fall jumped from 18,334 in 2007 to 29,668 in 2016. While the reasons for this steep increase are not fully understood, good balance is undoubtedly among the best defenses against this serious danger.

If you’re concerned about your balance, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. There can be a variety of underlying causes. If you think your balance is fine, give yourself the following quick self-test to see just how steady you really feel on your feet.

What to do: Stand upright, with your feet together, behind a sturdy chair. Cross your arms over your chest and slowly close your eyes. If necessary, place one hand on the seat back for support. Do you feel stable? Wobbly? Nervous? Notice how you react to this balance challenge. (By excluding sight, you rely on your body’s use of sensory nerve endings and other body-orienting input that contributes to achieving balance.)

It’s a good idea to tell your doctor about your results—and to repeat the self-test periodically to informally check on your balance.

Source: Carol Clements, MA, who has more than 45 years of experience as a personal trainer and teacher of many movement arts, techniques and methods. She is also author of Better Balance for Life and works privately with clients in New York CIty. CarolClements.com