Body and Brain Protection

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Always Protect Yourself

In 2017, 170 thousand people in the United States died from unintentional injury-related deaths. Most unintentional injury-related deaths occur off the job, often when least expected – during a vacation, while doing chores at home or while driving across town. — Injury Facts

In 2018, there were over 45 million injuries, incurring over $1 trillion in costs. — Injury Facts 

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” — Ed Viesturs, elite mountain climber

In life, there are choices to make. As you make those choices, always protect yourself. If the weather conditions aren’t such that you can get safely back down the mountain, don’t attempt to summit it. Your health is key to continuing to do the things you enjoy.

Body and brain protection is ranked 10th among 24 Key Health Factors for 2024. Here’s how to increase your awareness of danger so you can lower your risk of a debilitating or fatal injury.  That said, before reading further, take a couple minutes to consider what you think are the top ten causes of preventable injuries. Then, continue below…

Top Causes of Preventable InjuriesNational Safety Council (NSC)

The NSC publishes an excellent guide on activities of high risk and how to reduce your odds of injury or death. Here’s what they’ve found based on 2018 data:

  1. Poisoning (1 in 98 people) — 90% of all poisonings happen at home. Unintentional prescription drug overdoses are the major cause. Also, make sure your house has carbon monoxide detectors to detect gas leaks and does not contain radon gas which causes lung cancer. Keep dangerous chemicals such as laundry detergents safely away from children.
  2. Vehicle crashes (1 in 106) — often from distracted driving. Cell phone use and changing the radio station being the main culprits.
    • Practice safe, focused and calm driving. Keep your distance from other vehicles where possible. Do not tailgate other vehicles and move aside if you are being tailgated or near vehicles driving erratically. 
    • As a passenger in other people’s vehicles, if they are tailgating, find your voice to let them know that it is making you uncomfortable. 
    • Avoid riding motorcycles (1 in 890), especially without protective suits. If you do ride, make sure to read about the situations which cause the most accidents and be aware that 10% of those accidents include damage to the genital area, such as due to the collision of that area with a bike’s gas tank!
    • Cycling (1 in 4060) can be dangerous too. Practice steady, safe and calm biking in traffic. Avoid dooring. Stay alert for vehicles who don’t see you.
    • Avoid skateboarding, especially as an adult! There have been a surprising number of serious leg injuries from just stepping backwards off a skateboard in motion. Be wary of scooters too.
  3. Falling (1 in 111) — the third leading cause of all unintentional-injury-related deaths, but the #1 cause for those 65 and older. Here are tips to avoid falls.
  4. Pedestrian incidents (1 in 541) — Even walking has risks, especially in urban, high traffic areas. Distracted walking accidents are on the rise, and everyone looking at their cell phone is at risk. 
  5. Drowning (1 in 1121) — high risk for young children ages 1-4 and the second highest cause of preventable death through age 15. Teens and young adults often don’t think about water safety, especially around ocean undertows and large waves. Do not go in the water under the influence of alcohol, which turns out to be a primary cause in 50% of male teenage drownings.
  6. Fires and burns (1 in 1399) — Over 2,500 deaths each year are caused by burns and injuries related to fire. Often fires start at night, when family members are asleep. A working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a fire in half. Cooking while overtired or inebriated is dangerous. Check your stove. Do you have any flammable objects nearby? …and if you have a portable space heater, be aware of these risks. Also, avoid your curiosity to go see burning buildings or ships. Explosions can occur, killing and injuring people miles away. To give an example of how far blasts can travel, in the 1947 Texas City disaster, a two-ton ship anchor landed 1.6 miles away. 
  7. Choking / Suffocation (1 in 2618) — primarily a risk factor for infants, young children and old adults. Choking on food is the primary cause.
  8. Murder (1 in 18,989) — Elite martial arts experts teach the first step in of self-defense as “Descalate. Run or walk away if possible. Avoid a fight.”  Stay away from dangerous people and dangerous places. ~30% of murders occur during felonies such as robberies. Give up items of monetary value to reduce your risk of harm.
  9. Natural disasters (1 in 54,699) — Get clear early from tornadoes, hurricanes and dangerous storms. Don’t wait as roads get blocked faster than most people expect. Have an emergency kit in your car and at least three days of food and water at home.
  10. COVID-19 (1 in TBD) — Even if you survive an infection, COVID-19 can leave you with permanent impairments.
    • Minimize time in air-conditioned indoor public spaces. Offices, stores, etc. Air-conditioning dries out your nasal mucous membranes which protect you from viruses.
    • Avoid gatherings of people you don’t know and fully trust.
    • Wear a mask. Although masks primarily protect other people from you, they discourage you from touching your face and increase the humidity of the air you breathe, thus increasing your protective nasal mucosa.

Avoid Brain Damage

Although motor vehicle accidents, falls and violence are the top causes of traumatic brain damage, here are more situations to avoid:

  • Falling objects — The most common cause of household injury is from falling objects. Take a look around in your home. What might be of danger? Check your workplace too.
  • Sports-related injuries — Cycling is the #1 risk, followed by football, then baseball & softball. Water sports is a surprising 5th place.
  • Chronic stress — Unlike short-term stress which can be beneficial, chronic stress kills brain cells and shrinks your brain, leading to long-term functional and emotional issues. It can cause memory impairment too.

Recommended Protective Gear

So given it is important to keep your brain and keep your body healthy, what are the best practices for protective gear?

  • n-95 masks in high risk COVID-19 environments such as airplane trips
  • Seat belts
  • Bike, ski, snowboard and other sports-protective helmets even though they don’t protect against concussions
  • Goggles and other forms of eye protection
  • Sunscreen, hats and lip block for skin care

This concludes today’s article. We hope it helps you to stay safe. As your reward for reading, find time to watch the 2004 Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood film, Million Dollar Baby or splurge and get yourself an exoskeleton so you can work and play longer.

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