Use your head. Prevent brain injuries.

Most of us plow through life head first, living and playing with gusto and trying to have a good time, get our jobs done, compete and enjoy our lives without hurting ourselves or others. But try as we might to avoid them, brain injuries, unfortunately, are quite common. Caused by a bump or blow to the head, these injuries sometimes are called “concussions” or “traumatic brain injuries” (TBIs) and can range from mild to severe.

Most mild brain injuries cause no harm. But sometimes even mild brain injuries can cause serious, long-lasting problems. The best way to protect yourself and your family from brain injuries is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Brain Injury Association of America to reduce the chances that you or your family members will sustain a brain injury.

  • Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. 
  • Always buckle your child into a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt (according to the child’s height, weight, and age) in the car.
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Wear a helmet and make sure your children wear helmets when:�
    • Riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle
    • Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
    • Using in-line skates, scooters or riding a skateboard
    • Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
    • Riding a horse
    • Skiing, snowboarding, canoeing and kayaking
  • When possible, make sure the surface on your child’s playground is made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood, mulch, and sand.

It’s also important (for your own safety and to meet State and Federal compliance requirements) to always wear an approved hard hat on indoor and outdoor worksites where you could be at risk from falling objects.

Home safety for you and your family

Many head injuries occur in the home. Avoid falls in the home by:

  • Using a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves
  • Installing handrails on stairways
  • Installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows
  • Using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around
  • Removing tripping hazards such as small area rugs and loose electrical cords
  • Using non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
  • Putting grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
  • Maintaining a regular exercise program to improve strength, balance, and coordination
  • Seeing an eye doctor regularly for a vision check to help lower the risk of falling

 Signs and symptoms of brain injury

Here is a list of common symptoms of a brain injury (concussion). If you or a family member has a head injury and you notice any of the symptoms on the list, call your doctor right away. Describe the injury and symptoms, and ask if you should make an appointment to see your own doctor or another specialist.

In Adults:

  • Headaches or neck pain that won’t go away
  • Trouble with mental tasks such as remembering, concentrating, or decision-making
  • Slow thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
  • Getting lost or easily confused
  • Feeling tired all the time, having no energy or motivation
  • Mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping)
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy, or losing balance
  • An urge to vomit (nausea)
  • Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions
  • Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Ringing in the ears

In Children:

  • Feeling tired or listless
  • Being irritable or cranky (will not stop crying or cannot be consoled)
  • Changes in eating (will not eat or nurse)
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in the way the child plays
  • Changes in performance at school
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities
  • Loss of new skills, such as toilet training
  • Loss of balance, unsteady walking
  • Vomiting

The common mom’s advice, “be smart, be safe,” applies to head injury prevention. Think ahead —  pun intended — and always err to the side of caution and safety.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

It’s always the right time to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle

Everybody knows someone who has heart disease, whether they or the person with the disease realize it or not. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. February is American Heart Month, and it’s still early in the new year, so there’s plenty of time in 2012 to adjust your lifestyle and make smarter choices that will prolong both the longevity and quality of your life.

The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which often appears as a heart attack. Each year, an estimated 785,000 Americans have a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 have a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” it is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, with women accounting for nearly half of heart disease deaths.

There are many risk factors that contribute to heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and secondhand smoke. While some of these problems are hereditary, there’s much we can do to improve our odds of remaining heart healthy and for controlling problems like high blood pressure that we may have inherited.

Overall, a healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons we have to fight heart disease. It is the overall pattern of the choices we make that count.  Eating smart, exercise, sleeping well, and stress and weight reduction all play important roles.

When it comes to eating in a healthful way, read nutrition labels and base eating patterns on these recommendations:

  • Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat
  • Select fat-free, 1% fat, and low-fat dairy products
  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet
  • Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day
  • Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars
  • Select and purchase foods lower in salt/sodium.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.
  • Keep an eye on your portion sizes.

So, take a proactive role in protecting your heart through healthy pursuits in everything you eat and do. You’re well worth the investment!

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Stretching and Relaxing Your Way to a Fitter 2012

As most Americans wrap up the year and the holiday eating frenzy that began with Thanksgiving and stretches until New Years, it’s typical to think about losing weight, exercising, and a return to more sensible, healthy habits. Exercise benefits everyone in a variety of ways, from weight loss and toning to stress reduction, but depending on your age, weight and physical condition, certain types of exercise are more difficult to practice or sustain. Maybe it’s time to consider a popular alternative to traditional workouts.

Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, with more than 11 million Americans enjoying its health benefits. Most Westernized yoga classes focus on learning physical poses. They also usually include some form of breathing technique and possibly a meditation technique as well. Some yoga classes are designed purely for relaxation. But there are styles of yoga that teach you how to move your body in new ways. Choosing one of these styles offers the greatest health benefits by enabling you to develop your flexibility, strength, and balance.

Yoga and flexibility

Many people think of yoga as having to stretch like a gymnast. That makes them worry that they’re too old or unfit to do yoga. The truth is you’re never too old to improve flexibility. Yoga poses (called asanas) work by safely stretching your muscles. This releases the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use and causes stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. In addition, yoga increases the range of motion in joints. It may also increase lubrication in the joints, increasing ease and fluidity.

Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. And no matter your level of yoga, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time.

Some styles of yoga are more vigorous than others. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone. But even less vigorous styles of yoga, which focus on less movement and more precise alignment in poses, can provide strength and endurance benefits. This becomes crucial as people age. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abdominal muscles. When practiced correctly, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.

Yoga helps posture and breathing

With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength. That’s because you’re counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand “tall.” Another benefit of yoga is the increased body awareness. This heightened awareness tells you more quickly when you’re slouching or slumping so you can adjust your posture.

Additionally, because of the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves. This in turn can improve work and sports performance and endurance. But yoga typically isn’t focused on aerobic fitness the way running or cycling are. Most forms of yoga emphasize deepening and lengthening your breath. This stimulates the relaxation response — the opposite of the fight-or-flight adrenaline boost of the stress response.

Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed. Some yoga styles use specific meditation techniques to quiet the constant “mind chatter” that often underlies stress. Other yoga styles depend on deep breathing techniques to focus the mind on the breath, in turn calming the mind. 

The chemistry of yoga

Among yoga’s anti-stress benefits are a host of biochemical responses. For example, there is a decrease in catecholamines, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters — dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine — creates a feeling of calm. Some research points to a boost in the hormone oxytocin. This is the so-called “trust” and “bonding” hormone that’s associated with feeling relaxed and connected to others.

The same is true with mood. Nearly every yoga student will tell you they feel happier and more contented after class. Recently, researchers have begun exploring the effects of yoga on depression, a benefit that may result from yoga’s boosting oxygen levels to the brain.

In addition, one of the most studied areas of the health benefits of yoga is its effect on heart disease. Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. On a biochemical level, studies point to a possible anti-oxidant effect of yoga. And yoga has been associated with decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as a boost in immune system function.

So as you weigh your body — and your resolutions for the coming year — consider yoga as a health alternative or supplement to traditional exercise, and have a healthy new year!

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Fall into Walking for Low-Impact, High-Benefit Results

As cool evenings and shorter days approach, we anticipate the richness of Autumn, in all its majestic color and beauty. This transitional season is a great time to be outdoors, and provides a valuable wellness benefit—walking. Walking offers a significant return on investment, and doesn’t cost anything but a little time.

As we age we need more exercise. Physical activity helps to prevent bone loss, increase muscle strength, and reduce the risk of several other diseases associated with aging. Being physically active is a key to maintaining a higher quality of life and independence. Walking improves fitness, physical function, and prevents physical disability for aging adults. For older adults, moderate activity can come from longer sessions of walking or swimming, shorter sessions of vigorous walking or stair climbing.

It is recommended that adults participate in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Walking has the lowest impact on bones and joints, and often is an easy form of exercise to blend into your day at the office, factory or wherever you work, as well as a great family activity on the weekends.

Benefits of walking:

  • Reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and improved blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and blood lipid profile
    Women in a recent health study (72,488 female nurses) who walked at least three hours per week reduced their risk of heart attack and other coronary illnesses by 35% compared to those who did not walk.
  • Maintain body weight and lower risk of obesity
    Walking at a moderate pace for 30-60 minutes burns stored fat and can build muscle to speed up your metabolism.
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis
    Walking is effective in decreasing the rate of bone loss in the legs.
  • Reduced risk of breast and colon cancer
    Women who walked briskly at least two hours weekly decreased their breast cancer risk by 18%. Routine walking can also help to prevent colon cancer and improve the quality of life of colon cancer survivors.
  • Reduced risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2)
    A formal diabetes prevention program showed that walking 150 minutes per week and losing 7% of your body weight can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.
  • Enhanced mental well-being
    Research has shown that depression is lowered 47% in those moderately physically active for 30 minutes, three to five times a week, after 12 weeks.

Walking is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to stay fit. It’s very versatile, and can be completed indoors or outdoors—alone or with others. You can walk before or after work, during lunch, in the evenings, on weekends or whenever it’s most convenient, and join in this healthy, relaxing activity.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Discover the Health Benefits of Swimming

As the fair weather returns, thoughts return to outdoor recreation and water sports. If you’re not already a swimming enthusiast, this might be a good time to discover the health benefits of swimming, and start building momentum for this comprehensive and healthy exercise. It can be practiced indoors or out and can also provide a welcome alternative to bored or injured runners.

Swimming provides a comprehensive workout

Swimming is a whole body workout. To swim for any sizable amount of time, you need to engage all your limbs or you risk getting quickly exhausted. As a consequence, all the muscles in your body are mobilized during a typical swim workout.

You will get an even better workout if you use several swimming strokes because you activate the muscles in several different ways. And as swimming engages all limbs in different kinds of motions, it promotes joint flexibility and allows you to participate in a great aerobic activity that often is easier on backs, hips, and knees than traditional track, court, and field athletic activities.

Good cardiovascular benefits, and low-impact exercise

The health benefits of swimming don’t stop there. Swimming is an endurance sport and one of the best cardiovascular exercises. Swimming exercise reduces your blood pressure, strengthens your heart, and improves your aerobic capacity.

When you swim, your body is supported by the water. The water has a much greater density than air, and this limits the speed at which you can move in the water. These factors make swimming one of the best low-impact exercises than can be practiced even when other forms of exercise aren’t possible. Swimming:

  • Can be practiced safely at any age
  • Can be practiced during pregnancy
  • Can be practiced as an alternative exercise for injured athletes
  • Is a good exercise regimen for overweight people

Weight control and recovering from injuries

There are other health benefits of swimming. As an endurance sport, swimming allows you to lose (or control) weight. It burns about three calories per mile per pound of body weight. To be effective for weight control, you need to swim at a continuous pace at least two or three times a week for at least half an hour.

Swimming also is an excellent sport that can relieve certain types of aches. It is often prescribed to patients experiencing back problems and pain. Swimming backstroke is an excellent exercise to loosen up and strengthen the back. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for people who suffer from arthritis because of the support and soft resistance of the water.

One caution. Even though swimming is a low-impact exercise, there is a possibility to develop certain swimming injuries, so consult your physician or physical therapist to be aware of these potential consequences.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Tips for Exercising Safely in the Heat

As temperatures soar, there are important tips that people of all ages can follow to enjoy physical activity and exercise and also reduce the risk of heat illness that may occur from activity in the heat of summer. June is Men’s Health Month, and while we can experience high temperatures as summer approaches, this awareness is especially timely in July and August when participating in summer activities, outdoor recreation and sports.

“Many cases of heat illness are preventable and can be successfully treated if such conditions are properly recognized and appropriate care is provided in a timely manner,” said athletic trainer Brendon P. McDermott, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “We’re hoping to educate athletes, coaches, parents and health care providers about what can be done to prevent and treat heat illnesses.”
 

Watching for certain factors is key to safe summer activities

To guard against heat illnesses, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends following these easy steps:

  1. Gradually increase activity in terms of intensity and duration in the heat. This prepares your body for more intense, longer duration exercise in warm conditions, and helps prevent injury and heat illness.
  2. Intersperse periods of rest during activity and assure adequate rest between exercise bouts. Rest breaks are an important defense against heat illness, and proper sleeping habits decrease your risk as well.
  3. Begin outdoor activities only after you’re properly hydrated. Drink water or sports drinks throughout physical activity in the heat.
  4. A darker urine color is a quick indicator of dehydration. Your urine should look more like lemonade than apple juice.
  5. Exercise during cooler portions of the day (early morning or late evening), if possible.
  6. Do not participate in intense exercise if you show signs of an existing illness (i.e., fever, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, etc.). These can decrease your body’s tolerance for heat and increase your risk of a heat illness. Back off on exercise intensity or duration if not feeling well (walk instead of run, cut the session short, etc.)
  7. Athletic events should employ an athletic trainer for coverage to assure proper medical supervision, recognition and treatment of possible injuries and heat illness.

Heat-related ailments – what to watch for

“We are not invincible when it comes to exercise in the heat,” said McDermott. “In extreme cases, if medical care is not provided in a timely manner, long-term damage can occur.”

Following is an overview of the heat-related ailments to be aware of when working or playing in the heat:

  1. Exertional Heat Stroke is an extremely serious illness that can result in death unless quickly recognized and properly treated. Signs and symptoms include an increase in core body temperature (usually above 104°F/40°C); central nervous system dysfunction, such as altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior or decreased mental acuity; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; headache, dizziness, or weakness; increased heart rate; decreased blood pressure or fast breathing; dehydration; and combativeness.

    What to do: It’s very important that treatment for exertional heat stroke be both aggressive and immediate, provided adequate medical personnel are on site. Key steps to take when exertional heat stroke is identified include immediate whole-body cooling, preferably through cold-water immersion, followed immediately by medical treatment in an emergency room or trauma center.

  2. Heat exhaustion is a moderately serious illness resulting from fluid loss or sodium loss in the heat. Signs and symptoms include loss of coordination; dizziness or fainting; profuse sweating or pale skin; headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; stomach/intestinal cramps or persistent muscle cramps.

    What to do: Heat exhaustion patients should immediately be transported to a cool, shaded environment with feet elevated, and fluids should be replaced. If their condition worsens or does not improve within minutes, they should be transported to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment. Those suffering from heat exhaustion should avoid intense activity in the heat until at least the next day. NATA also recommends a trip to the doctor to rule out any underlying conditions that predispose them to heat exhaustion.

  3. Heat cramps are often present in those who perform strenuous exercise in the heat. Conversely, cramps also occur in the absence of warm or hot conditions, which is common in ice hockey players. Signs and symptoms include intense pain (not associated with pulling or straining a muscle) and persistent muscle contractions that continue during and after exercise.

    What to do: People suffering from heat cramps should cease activity, consume high-sodium food and stretch the affected muscle. They should also be assessed by an athletic trainer to determine if they can return to activity. If cramping progresses in severity or number of muscle groups, patients should be transported to the emergency room for more advanced treatment.

  4. Hyponatremia is a potentially fatal illness that occurs when a person’s blood sodium levels decrease, either due to over-hydration or inadequate sodium intake, or both. Medical complications can result in cerebral and/or pulmonary edema. Signs and symptoms of this illness include excessive fluid consumption before, during and after exercising (weight gain during activity); increasing headache; nausea and vomiting (often repetitive); and swelling of extremities (hands and feet).

    What to do: Hyponatremia cases that involve mental confusion and intense headache should be seen by a physician so proper treatment can be administered. A physician should also be consulted prior to resuming outdoor activity in the heat.

Always listen to your body. If you are participating in any fitness routines or general activity in the heat, and you start to feel ill or strange, you should stop immediately and seek medical attention, as needed. Have fun, but be safe in the heat!

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Winter Sports Injury Prevention

People spend hours of winter recreation time on activities ranging from sledding, snow skiing and tobogganing to ice hockey, ice-skating and snowboarding. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), however, if the proper precautions are not taken to ensure warmth and safety, severe injuries can occur.

Winter sports injuries get a lot of attention at hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics. Injuries include sprains and strains, dislocations and fractures. In an average season, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported:

  • 139,332 injuries from snow skiing
  • 164,002 injuries from snow boarding
  • 133,551 injuries from ice skating
  • 53,273 injuries from ice hockey
  • 160,020 injuries from sledding, snow tubing, and tobogganing
  • 34,562 injuries from snowmobiling

Many winter sports injuries happen at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run before the day’s end. A majority of these injuries can easily be prevented if participants prepare for their sport by keeping in good physical condition, staying alert and stopping when they are tired or in pain.

The AAOS urges children and adults to follow these simple tips for preventing winter sports injuries:

  • Never participate alone in a winter sport.
  • Keep in shape and condition muscles before participating in winter activities.
  • Warm up thoroughly before playing. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
  • Check that equipment is in good working order and used properly.
  • Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. Wear proper footwear that provides warmth and dryness, as well as ample ankle support.
  • Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.
  • Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury.
  • Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety.
  • Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Make sure everyone is aware of proper procedures for getting help if injuries occur.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after activities.
  • Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted.
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00062

What’s Your Fitness Personality?

Find an activity that’s perfect for you

Busy moms find it hard to squeeze in time for fitness, even though managing kids, home and job can feel like a workout in itself. To find an exercise that works for you (and to improve your chances of sticking with it), you need to match your personality to the perfect activity. Whether it’s yoga, running or even boxing, each has great benefits for your heart and your head.

Personality Type: Couch Potato

The Perfect Activity: Cardiovascular training. Ten-minute exercise sessions three times a day can be as beneficial as a longer session. Use the kids’ nap or homework time to do squats or sit-ups, run in place or jump rope.
Time: 30 minutes per day, three to five days per week
Calories burned: 300 per day*

Personality Type: Social Butterfly

The Perfect Activity: Group sports. Find a partner and start running, or organize a regular group cycling time. Just be careful not to turn exercise into a pure social hour — if you can easily carry on a full, animated conversation during your aerobic exercise (no gasps for air), you may not be working at a high enough intensity.
Time: 30 minutes per session, three to five days per week
Calories burned: cycling, 250*; running, 327*

Personality Type: Multitasker

The Perfect Activity: Out-of-the-box aerobic classes. Try kickboxing, for example. It requires focus, yet offers variety — you’ll constantly switch from the punching bag and push-ups to jumping jacks and sidekicks. With circuit-training classes, you move from one exercise to the next without resting, which keeps your heart rate elevated and maximizes your workout time.
Time: 30 minutes per session, three to five days per week
Calories burned: kickboxing, 422*; circuit training, 281*

Personality Type: Soloist

The Perfect Activity: Swimming or yoga. Swimming laps can be both a solitary and a rigorous exercise. Yoga is a personal practice involving a great deal of introspection and concentration. Both are great full-body workouts — and perfect for getting some healthy time alone.
Time: half-hour swim; one-hour yoga session (video or class)
Calories burned: swimming, 144*; yoga, 90* to 300* (depending on the type of yoga)

*Calories burned are approximate, based on a 150-pound person and will vary with intensity level. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

From www.makinglifebetter.com