Your brain is many things. It is the boss of your body, controlling your heart, lungs, and central nervous system. It’s the pilot of your body, controlling your involuntary and voluntary muscle movements. It is the command center of your body—controlling your thoughts, actions and hormone levels. With so much responsibility placed on our brains, it’s important to keep them safe and free from harm. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, designed to bring awareness to brain trauma and how to prevent it. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States, accounting for 40.5% of all cases yearly.
Many people who fall—even if they are not injured—develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to be less active in an attempt to be more careful. However, the more they decrease their activity level, the weaker they become—increasing their risk for falling again. While some falls are plainly by accident, there are some factors that increase your risk:
Weakness in the muscles of the lower body, as well as decreased flexibility
Peripheral Neuropathy (associated with diabetes)
Vitamin D deficiency
Difficulty walking and balancing
Taking four or more medications, or taking specific medication such as blood pressure medication, tranquilizers, sedatives, pain medications or antidepressants
Changes in vision
Vertigo or dizziness
Foot pain or improper foot wear
Hazards in your home, including throw rugs, broken steps, or lack of handrails along stairs or in bathrooms
Over 800,000 hospitalizations a year are due to a head injury from a fall. The most at-risk groups are young children (under 14) or senior citizens (over 65.) The most important step you can take to prevent a traumatic brain injury is to prevent falls as much as possible. There are a few easy ways to prevent falls:
Review your medication with your doctor to ensure they do not increase your fall risk
Get up and move! If you need help or motivation, our fitness program Lifestyles at OakBend can help. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare or HMO plan, your membership may be completely covered.
Have your eyes checked once a year.
If you have fallen at least two times in the last six months, speak with your doctor about receiving a Physical Therapy referral.
Wear proper footwear in and out of your house. Avoid slip-on shoes, as these can increase your fall risk
Make your home safe by moving trip hazards, adding grab bars to toilets and tubs, and providing adequate lighting to your hom
One out of every five falls causes a serious injury, so it is always important to see a doctor immediately after a fall to rule out brain injury. Your brain (and body) will thank you.
Physical Therapy Disclaimer: The contents of this article, including text and images, are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a medical service. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.