In 1993, the Brain Injury Association of America began “Brain Injury Awareness Month” with the hopes of spreading awareness about what was then a little-understood phenomenon – brain injuries. Since then, the organization has spent each March spearheading the fight against brain injuries by attempting to secure funding for research and better inform the public about the symptoms.
It’s an important cause. The organization reports that more than 6.4 million Americans suffer a brain injury each year, and that’s on the low end, as many brain injuries go unreported. A lack of general awareness when it comes to the symptoms of such injuries contributes to an underdiagnosis – something that the BIAA is still trying to fight.
What is a brain injury?
When it comes to brain injuries, there are two types – traumatic and acquired. Traumatic brain injuries include concussions or some type of force being applied to the brain. These are commonly referred to as TBIs. Acquired brain injuries do not involve external force. The leading cause of acquired brain injuries, also known as nontraumatic brain injuries, is stroke.
For those over age 55, brain injuries are an important topic. At this age, a brain injury can lead to an increased risk of hospitalization. Brain injuries have also been linked to higher rates of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to know the signs of brain injuries and how to decrease the risk of suffering such an injury.
What are the symptoms of a brain injury?
Brain injuries are complicated. Symptoms can appear instantly or take days to show up. Each brain injury is different, depending on what part of the brain was impacted. Additionally, it is possible to get a concussion without hitting your head, as a sudden deceleration of the head can lead to the brain impacting the inside of the skull, leading to bruising. This is known as “whiplash” and can occur in falls or car accidents.
Here are some of the things to look out for if you or someone you know thinks they have sustained a brain injury.
- Vomiting or nausea
- Foggy or impaired mental state
- Memory problems, especially around the time of injury
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Mood changes or irritability
- Loss of consciousness
- Blurry or impaired vision
If you or a loved one thinks they might have sustained a concussion, it is important to seek medical treatment promptly.
How can TBIs be avoided?
Luckily, there are ways to avoid TBIs, or at least reduce the risk of suffering one. According to the BIAA, 47.9 percent of traumatic brain injuries are the result of a fall. This is incredibly significant given that the next-closest cause, struck by/against forces, makes up 17.1 percent of TBIs. Thus, we can deduce that reducing the risk of falling can reduce the chances of getting a brain injury.
The best way to decrease the risk of falling is to make sure that walkways are clear and free of any tripping hazards. These can include areas where there is uneven flooring or carpeting, as well as objects in the hallway. Additionally, make sure these areas are well lit – as low lighting can lead to tripping and falling. Avoid water or moisture on flooring, and watch out for pets, who sometimes have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Another way to decrease the risk of falling is to increase muscular strength, but this doesn’t mean you have to turn into a meathead! For adults over 65, walking and low-intensity strength training can reduce the risk of mobility impairment, making walking easier and lessening the risk of falling. Protein intake is also incredibly important, as increased protein intake leads to less inflammation and greater muscle strength.
Low-impact strength training can be especially beneficial because it is easy to do and gentle on tendons. In fact, it can often be done in the comfort of your own home and help alleviate some of the symptoms of chronic injury while increasing flexibility. Some good examples of low-impact strength training include aerobics, yoga and stretching.
Since the BIAA started Brain Injury Awareness Month, much has been learned about these injuries. While there’s still a long way to go to fully understand them, our grasp of the injuries and how to avoid them is growing stronger by the day.
Given their links to long-term health, it is important to take steps to lessen the risk of suffering such an injury. And if it does occur, it’s important to know the symptoms and what to do next.