As the weather warms, most of us tend to spend more time out of doors. Children, especially, can be seen, and heard, throughout neighborhoods on bicycles, trampolines or just running around in the yard; and, signs for spring sports registrations are also popping up on street corners. Since the month of March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, let us learn more about ways we can protect ourselves, and our children, from suffering from a very common and mild type of brain injury, concussions. The CDC defines concussions as a "type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells (CDC).
According to the Utah Department of Health, thousands of Utahns suffer a concussion, or other type of TBI, every year. Many of these are children. It is estimated that approximately 14 kids suffer a concussion every week at school. Most of these concussions happen during recess or from contact sports. Each concussion should be taken seriously and examined by a doctor. Click on this CDC link for a list of symptoms or watch the video below.
If you suspect your child or teen has suffered a concussion, it is important for them to be examined by a doctor. While many children and teens recover completely from a concussion, it important to know that they can also pose a serious health risk. The Mayo Clinic suggests, that since all head injuries take time to heal, children should rest from any physical and mental activities for a couple of days. It is also very important that a child or teen does not return to a sports activity until a concussion has fully healed. Another blow to the head could make a mild concussion much worse by prolonging symptoms and could lead to more permanent damages. Also, studies show that children who have suffered one concussion are more likely to suffer another (Mayo Clinic).
For more information about concussions in your child athlete, check out the CDC's site for Heads Up by clicking on the Heads Up info graphic. It is a guide created to help parents, coaches, and athletes become more informed about concussions.
It is so important for our children to be active and adventurous. Let us do our part in keeping them safe safe by learning what we can on how to prevent and treat concussions if and when they happen.
It's official; Spring is here! In case you missed its arrival, Spring officially started on Saturday, despite the fact that it snowed pretty heavily during the early afternoon hours. But, with the mild winter we received, precipitation is much needed, so bring on the rain and, maybe, some snow. Even with the storms of rain and snow that generally come with Spring, the days are noticeably warming and the daylight hours continue to increase.
With the days gradually getting warmer, it is a great opportunity to get outside, enjoy nature and get our physical activity levels up. Being outside will also expose you to fresh air and natural light and sunlight, which can help boost your mood, lower stress levels, and provide essential nutrients, like vitamin D.
As a nation, we are not moving enough. Only half of us are getting the necessary physical activity levels. Not getting enough physical activity can raise a person’s risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. On the other hand, the benefits from getting the recommended physical activity are many. Besides lowering your risk for the diseases mentioned, adequate exercise can also improve your sleep, cognitive abilities, and bone and musculoskeletal health (CDC).
With the positive benefits greatly outweighing the negative benefits of not getting enough physical activity, then why, as a nation, are we not getting enough? Time is usually a big contributing factor. With work, school, children, and other obligations, sometimes exercise can take a backseat. Most of the time, however, it is because we choose to do something else. At the end of a long day, you may be tempted to turn on the TV in an attempt to unwind. But, if instead of turning on the television, you choose to take a 20-30 minute walk, you may be offering your body much more health benefits such as, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting your mood, and improving the quality of your sleep (Annual Reviews).
Luckily, here in Cache Valley, we have ample opportunity to enjoy nature and receive our daily dose of physical activity. We have plenty of parks for children and grownups to take advantage of. Grab a ball or a Frisbee and get the whole family involved with outdoor games. Take a walk or run on the Logan Riverwalk Trail, Bonneville Shoreline Trail, or through USU's beautiful campus. It might be too early for some of our hiking trails, but take advantage, this spring and summer, of the many hiking trails found in any of the canyons surrounding Cache Valley.
Let us all make a goal this Spring Season to take advantage of our beautiful valley while also raising our physical activity levels. Click on this CDC link to see how much physical activity has been recommended per age group. Let's get outside for a nice walk or run, play games with our children in the parks, and just enjoy nature.
The coming of Spring! With the arrival of this new season comes warmer weather and longer daylight hours. Yesterday was the official start of Daylight Savings Time. We "sprung ahead" and shifted our clocks up one hour. While DST gives our evenings plenty of daylight hours to enjoy more outdoor activities, it also takes away a precious hour of sleep; and, in a nation where the majority of us are not getting adequate sleep, DST can be a negative adjustment in our lives.
Besides Daylight Savings Time, another event taking place this week is Sleep Awareness Week. This campaign was launched over 20 years ago by The National Sleep Foundation and always follows the week of Daylight Savings Time. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of sleep health and why we need to make sleep a high priority in our lives.
First off, how much sleep should we be getting each day?
As we age, our sleep needs change. Click on the CDC image to see what the experts recommend on how much sleep we should get.
Second, why do we need sleep?
"Scientists have explored the question of why we sleep from many different angles. They have examined, for example, what happens when humans or other animals are deprived of sleep. In other studies, they have looked at sleep patterns in a variety of organisms to see if similarities or differences among species might reveal something about sleep's functions. Yet, despite decades of research and many discoveries about other aspects of sleep, the question of why we sleep has been difficult to answer (Healthy Sleep)."
Third, how do we improve our sleep?
There are many steps that we can take to improve our sleep.
1. Be consistent: try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. And, make sure your bedtime will allow you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
2. Create the perfect sleep atmosphere: a darkened bedroom, minimum noise and the right temperature are some of the things that make sleeping easier.
3. Avoid electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
To learn more about how to improve sleep, click on this link for more sleep tips from The National Sleep Foundation.
So how do we adjust to Daylight Savings Time and the lost hour of sleep?
For many, DST does not have a great affect on their bodies. However, for some, especially those experiencing sleep deprivation, the lost hour can be brutal. The best way to deal with DST is to remain consistent with your bedtime schedule. If possible, try adding a few minutes of extra sleep a night. Also, keep your daily routines the same and don't forget to exercise. If you need to nap, keep it short, no longer than 20 minutes. It may take you up to a week for the body to adjust to the new time change.
This year’s theme, for Nutrition Month, is to personalize your plate: create and adjust your eating habits to meet your nutritional needs. Throughout life, our bodies are changing and so should our diets; what we need at the age of 15 will be different than what we need at the age of 50. Also, with different dietary restrictions and different taste preferences, it is important for you to create your plate according to your individual needs.
If you don't know where to start, click on the My Plate image, which will direct you to the US Department of Agriculture. This page can serve as a great guideline and resource in creating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods.
If you read and practiced last week's blog, your spring cleaning should be in full swing. How about we also concentrate on doing a type of "spring cleaning" with our daily diets. Take the opportunity this month, as spring rolls in, to refresh our eating habits. Make some specific health goals that you would like to work on, not only through this month, but through the entire year. Since spring can bring on a sense of newness or new beginnings, try discovering new foods and flavors. Be adventurous. Nutritious eating is not just about getting more broccoli into your diet, it's about discovering all different kinds of foods. Click on the link below for more information about National Nutrition Month and great tips on how to make changes in your life to be more nutritious.