Did you know accidents in the home rank as the leading location for deaths among children and older adults? Life is unpredictable, and providing competent, life-saving emergency care in those unpredictable moments is the best reason to know CPR and to make sure you’re current on your first aid skills and knowledge. Preventing accidents isn’t always possible, but preventing some injuries is within reach.
While life is unpredictable, you can prevent or reduce the risk of many injuries, health crises, and accidents with the right tools and knowledge. And prevention is always better for everyone than living through a crisis. What are a few key tips for preventing crisis?
1. Start with the basics of exercise.
The evidence is clear: Regular exercise reduces the risk of many health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and more. Beyond the basic benefits and effects exercise has on your general health, exercising regularly keeps our bones, joints, and connective tissue more healthy and stable. Bottomline—move more to live more.
Healthy muscles matter. More than 600 muscles are in your body, and they want to work and move for you. Make the time to exercise with weights and forms of resistance training to develop your muscles, bones and ligaments for increased strength and endurance. Your posture will improve, your muscles will become more toned, firm, and strong.
When you strengthen your core muscles—the muscles around your trunk, lower back, hips, pelvis, and abdomen—you improve your balance and stability. Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities from riding your bike, unloading groceries from the car, to bending down to tie your shoes.
Weak core muscles leave you open to poor posture, lower back pain, muscle injuries and more prone to falls, sprains, and broken bone. A weakened core can even result in shoulder and neck pain because those muscles do play an active role in stabilizing your whole body.
The beauty of core exercises is that you can do them at home. You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership. Any exercise that involves the coordinated use of your abdominal and back muscles is considered core exercise. The bridge exercise and the plank exercise are great beginning core strengtheners to try at home. But don’t forget weight-bearing exercises, either.
Weight-bearing exercises fight off osteoporosis.
Preventing injury starts with a solid foundation. Osteoporosis is a major concern post-menopausal women. A bone-weakening disorder, osteoporosis often results in fractures and bone loss, especially from falls. But exercise can help, and it’s never too late to start.
And by exercising to increase muscle strength, improve balance and posture, you will decrease your risk of falling which is often how bone fractures occur.
Great exercises to start with are strength training for the upper back, weight-bearing aerobic activities, and exercises that incorporate stability, flexibility, and balance. Make sure you find exercise that you really enjoy, because you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Do you know how to get the most out of exercising? Combine exercise with a healthy diet.
2. Pay attention to what you’re eating.
Did you know the cells that make up your body are constantly being replaced by new cells? The cells in our bodies aren’t static. Our cellular regeneration isn’t complete once we’re adults—it’s on-going.
Food fuels our bodies. What we eat and drink will affect how our body builds itself and rebuilds itself. Having the proper nutrients readily available within our body means that our body is healthier down to the cellular level. With every bite of nutrient-rich food you take, you’re preventing injury.
Do you want to start a healthy diet, but you aren’t sure where to start? A good basic start is one that includes a variety of foods from the major food groups—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein, to include beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds; and healthy fats. These are foods you can find at your local grocery store so the variety can fit your lifestyle and budget. Focus on those that are low in salt, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar.
Adding antioxidants to your diet is a great start to healthy eating as well. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals—molecules produced when your body breaks down food. Apples, bell peppers, asparagus, pecans—these are all great sources for antioxidants, and there is a long list of many more delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes that are rich in antioxidants.
And there’s good news: You have another excuse to drink red wine and your cup of coffee you enjoy every morning. Red wine, dark chocolate, coffee, tea, pomegranate juice—all of these give an additional boost to your antioxidant intake.
Beware of superfood trends.
The best approach to adding anything to your diet is to do so in moderation. Preventing medical conditions or reducing your risk for certain conditions starts with a wide variety of food. We’re built for variety. We get the biggest benefits from vitamins and minerals when we have a variety of each. Fresh fruits and vegetables hold the most benefits (versus canned or frozen).
Do you love to multitask? Gardening may be your new exercise of choice this season. Plant a garden. You’ll receive plenty of exercise and fresh air as you plant and tend to it, and the reap the health benefits of farm-fresh produce right from your own backyard.
While you’re out there working hard, remember to stretch.
3. Stretch yourself.
Stretching is important to your soft tissue health. What is soft tissue?
Soft tissues include tendons, ligaments, fascia, muscles, and more. Soft tissues are what hold your body together. From keeping organs in place to stabilizing joints and connecting bones, it’s very important to your overall health and mobility to keep your soft tissues healthy.
So start with the basics of soft tissue health—stretch.
Concentrate your stretches on major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders. Strive for symmetry and stretch both sides. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. Bouncing as you stretch can injure your muscle and contribute to muscle tightness. Breathe normally and hold each stretch for 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for 60 seconds.
Soft tissue injuries are the most common type of injury from activity that people of every age experience. From tennis elbow to a sprain to many things in between, a soft tissue injury takes a long time to heal. Do your best to prevent injury by stretching regularly and before and after exercise. Stretching can be time-consuming, but you can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.
Gentle, slow movements, like those found in tai chi or yoga, can help you be more flexible in specific movements. These types of exercises can help reduce the risk of falls too, since you’ll be improving mobility and balance with each stretch.
And if it hurts to stretch that one spot…
4. Listen to your body.
Preventing injury due to exercise or even stretching starts with a simple concept—listen to your body. Now that you’re stretching, you’ve discovered you have certain limits on how far you can stretch. Your body lets you know that you’ve hit the limit with a little twinge or with increased resistance. Tight muscles can cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. Pace yourself.
Your brain and nervous system work hard to protect you from injury. Listen to the feedback your body is giving. It’s telling you there is a limit. It’s preventing injury.
Your body knows what it’s doing. For example, if you’ve discovered that you feel faint while stretching, then it’s time to see a doctor because you may have something called orthostatic hypotension. This means your blood pressure is dropping too low when you’re stretching, standing up quickly, or have a sudden change in body position.
Drink plenty of water, always remain hydrated. Staying hydrated even in the cold-weather months is just as important as during the warm-weather months.
There is an unlimited number of ways our bodies tell us that something isn’t right. Don’t ignore the warning signs.
5. Go for regular checkups.
The best cure is prevention. Regular checkups with your doctor will help you to spot any areas of concern, keep your healthy lifestyle on track, and prevent future problems. So don’t put off having a physical once a year.
Annual preventative screening appointments are important because they establish your current health baseline, determine benchmarks, and give you an actionable plan for living a healthy life each day. Most appointments will include laboratory work and screenings for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer. Nobody knows your body better than you. If you notice changes in how you feel, if your energy level has changed, if something hurts more than normal, or you just don’t feel like yourself, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.
Always remember it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine or drastically changing your diet. They may have advice for you on what is safe and healthy for you and your body, as well as information on any precautions you may need to take into account due to certain conditions.
The information presented here should not be used as medical advice. Please seek treatment from a doctor if you’re experiencing any issues or you need a treatment plan for prevention of certain illnesses and injuries. Always call 9-1-1 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.