A little bump to the head during a fall at home or a tumble from a bike may seem minor, but head injuries can have severe consequences. In fact, new research suggests that even mild head trauma in seniors might contribute to the development of dementia. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of head injury at home and on the go.
Fall Prevention and Dementia
A recent study, lead by Dr. Raquel Gardner of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, indicates that there might be a detrimental long-term effect of even minor head trauma in older adults. The study’s findings show that patients over 65 who have suffered mild head trauma are at an increased risk of developing dementia.
As Gardner herself explains, “Most doctors and patients understand the importance of preventing falls in order to prevent bodily injuries. This study suggests that fall prevention … may even help prevent dementia.” Through proactive measures and staying attentive, it is possible for you to reduce your own fall risk and keep your brain healthier for longer.
Take Care of Your Body…
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests starting with a regular exercise routine that maintains or increases your mobility, enhances muscle strength, and, in turn, increases confidence. Low-impact exercises, such as tai chi, water aerobics, and yoga, are all great ways to keep your body agile. Beyond that, the CDC recommends regular eye exams, and reviewing your medications with a doctor or pharmacist to identify any drugs or interactions that may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
If you enjoy spending time outdoors, take precautions: wear a helmet when biking and appropriate footwear when you’re out for a walk. Consider using a medical alert device to keep help close by wherever you are.
Should any kind of head trauma should occur, see a physician immediately, and watch for any of the following symptoms: confusion, dizziness, visual changes, nausea, headache, lethargy, vomiting, slurred speech, lack of coordination, or fluid draining from the ears, nose, or mouth. These symptoms require immediate emergency treatment.
…And Your Home
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of falling at home. Maintain clutter-free pathways, removing area rugs that you might trip over. Set up adequate lighting so that you can easily navigate your home at night. You can also install grab bars in your shower or by your toilet, reducing your chances of falling in the bathroom. If there are areas of your home that seem particularly precarious (narrow doorways that you can’t squeeze a walking aid through, for example), make sure there’s no furniture nearby. That way if you do slip, you won’t risk bumping your head.
Remember, fall prevention can be as important for your mind as it is for your body. By maintaining an agile body and keeping a clear, easily navigated household, you can keep yourself as physically and mentally healthy as possible.