Spring has finally arrived here in the Northeast, in a way that this year felt much more hard-fought than usual. What a relief to be able to finally shed our coats and savor the sunshine and warm breezes April brings.
The return of warmer weather (and for those in perpetually warm climates, to spring activities) finds us getting back outside, reacquainting ourselves with activities such as cycling, skating, or even just diving into some spring cleaning or gardening. Yet our “spring awakening” also brings with it some risks that matter to brain health. Here at Total Brain Health, we find our thoughts turning to head injury and some easy steps we can take right now to better “live with our brains in mind.”
Head injury can affect anyone, no matter their age. Active boomers enjoying cycling, running, and the like can keep up with the best of them, but may run an increased risk for falling due to slower reaction time and changes in balance that comes with age. The Centers for Disease Control reports that falls alone account for slightly over 40% of head injuries in the U.S., and are the leading cause of head-injury related death in adults over 65. In addition, sports-related activities that affect the head – think heading the ball in soccer, for example — are increasingly a concern in children, with growing attention to both the short-term and long-term consequences they bring. Clearly head injury is something that should be on our minds.
The good news? There are some very simple steps we can all take right now to reduce our risk for head injury. Here are 3 simple ideas on ways you can share with your clients of all ages and use yourself to “spring clean” your routine for falls risk:
1. Re-Train Your Balance. Many of us think of balance training as something only necessary for older adults. Yet balance exercises should be part of our everyday workout routine, especially if we enjoy fast-paced activities such as biking or in-line skating. As we age, we experience changes in our proprioception, or the “feedback” loop our body uses to manage our sense of ourselves in space. This, along with slower reaction times, can make it harder for us to “recover” when our bike hits a divot in the road or we hike or even walk on uneven terrain. Simple routines, such as the one here from the Mayo Clinic, help us better maintain our balance and should be part of everyone’s workout. You can also look to balancing boosting activities such as yoga and tai chi, which are great for brain health overall as well.
2. Trip Patrol. Tripping is a significant cause of injury, including head injury. Many “trip and fall” injuries are avoidable if we simply identify and remove things that well, trip us up! Here’s a great way to get everyone on board in reducing fall hazards: set up a “Trip Patrol.” Lead a group of residents and clients through your community or center and look together for things that could be trip hazards. Talk about ways to avoid these hazards, such as surveying your surroundings, moving small pieces of furniture to a better location, removing small area rugs or runners, etc. Bonus points to folks who then help you keep track of potential trip hazards going forward!
3. Spring Clean for Trip Risks. Here’s something we can do not only for our clients but also for ourselves: Spring clean with your head in mind. Just as we’ve learned to make checking our smoke detector batteries part of our “fall back” time change in the autumn, let’s make inspecting for trip risks part of our spring- cleaning routine. Check for uneven stone pathways in the garden, frayed or turned edges on rugs, objects that have somehow found their way onto staircases or hallways, or lighting on stairways (especially the ones to the basement) that could be a bit brighter. Its just another way to make common-sense prevention part of our routine!
Happy spring to all!