All Posts Tagged: Prevention

Winter Safety: Preventing Sports-Related Head Injuries

There’s no such thing as cabin fever for the millions of people who participate in sports during the winter. From hockey to downhill skiing to sledding and snowboarding, the possibilities for recreational pursuits are many.

While perhaps not as common as other winter sports injuries, the number of concussions and other head-related injuries is certainly nothing to be ignored. Moreover, head injuries are the leading cause of disability and death among skiers and snowboarders.

Because they’re often performed at high speed and on slippery and hard surfaces, winter sports can lead to a variety of injuries. And that’s why preventing them is paramount.

By The Numbers

A study led by the John Hopkins School of Medicine said that approximately 10 million Americans ski or snowboard annually. Severe head trauma accounts for nearly 20 percent of all injuries related to those sports – including injuries that resulted in a concussion or loss of consciousness. While the number of skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets has increased over the year, few states have made helmets mandatory to participate in these sports.

The Danger of Concussions

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a concussion is considered a type of traumatic brain injury that’s the result of a blow or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth. The sudden impact can damage brain cells and create chemical changes in the brain. Some common symptoms of a concussion include blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, vomiting, decreased coordination or balance, weakness, and swelling at the site of the injury.

If anyone you know notices these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Preventing Head-related Injuries

Many winter sports-related injuries are preventable, and participants can play their favorite sport safely. Here are some tips for avoiding head-related injuries.

  • Always Wear a Helmet
    Wearing a properly-fitted helmet (one that fits securely on your head even when you’re wearing a hat or cap to stay warm) is perhaps the most important type of prevention. Be sure to replace your helmet after a serious fall or impact.
  • Know Your Limitations
    Take lessons and learn the fundamentals of your favorite sport before advancing to a more difficult level, especially on the slopes. Young children should never be allowed to play in snow and ice without adult supervision.
  • Know Your Surroundings
    Make sure you’re aware of any blind spots, sudden turns, or drop-offs before you hit the slopes. Ski or sled away from trees and avoid crowded areas when possible. Don’t wear headphones so that you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing
    Only wear clothing that’s appropriate for your favorite sport while never wearing clothes that interfere with your vision.
  • Know The Signs of Concussions
    There are a variety of symptoms associated with concussions, as mentioned previously, and these symptoms may occur right after the injury or for not even days and weeks.

 

 

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Utilizing Exercise to Reduce & Prevent Falls

When a toddler or child falls, he or she is likely to just shake it off and keep moving. The same is true of many young adults. But when a senior falls, the consequences can be severe – including broken bones that lead to limited mobility and a downward health spiral.

Worse, each year thousands of older Americans die as a result of breaking a hip. Finding a solution that helps decrease the number of falls for this segment of the population is clearly important. And one area that has proven to be successful in terms of fall prevention is exercise.

How Exercise Helps

Structured exercise combined with balance training helps reduce falls. Balance training remains the foundation of fall prevention programs, but exercise helps in that it:

  • Makes muscles stronger and more flexible. Stronger and larger muscles can buffer the impact of a fall and provide some protection to joints and bones.
  • Improves endurance
  • Increases how long a person can be active
  • Combining exercise and balance training enables the person to have a faster reaction time, which is important in stopping a fall (by grabbing something) before it happens.
  • Resistance exercises strengthen bones, making them more resistant to fractures in the event of a fall.

Exercises That Help Build Better Balance

There are a variety of exercises than can be done almost anywhere and at anytime that will help with fall prevention. Experts advise starting out with two or more days of exercise a week, and going slowly with exercises your doctor has said are right for you. Always breathe slowly and easy when exercising.

Here are some specific exercises that can be done to help improve balance:

 

  • Single-leg Stance
    Standing up straight with your feet together and arms at your sides, slowly lift your right leg off the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can, and then repeat with your left leg. Maintain good posture throughout this exercise and focus on a spot straight ahead. If you feel comfortable, you can even do this exercise while waiting in line at the store.
  • Toe Stand
    Start by holding on to something for support of balance – such as the back of a chair – and, keeping your back straight and knees slightly bent, push up on your tiptoes as high as possible. Then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Repeat this 10 to 15 times.
  • Leg Extension
    Leg extensions can make your thigh muscles stronger. Sitting in a straight-back chair with your feet on the floor, straighten one leg out in front of you as much as possible. Then lower your leg back down slowly. Repeat this 10 to 15 times with each leg.
  • Back Leg Stretches
    Stretching the back of your leg will increase flexibility and strength, while making it easier for you to get around. Sitting in a straight-back chair, place one foot on a stool in front of you. Straighten the leg that’s on the stool and then lean forward and try to touch your foot with your hand. Hold this stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and repeat five times with each leg.

 

 

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Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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