November 2, 2018
Nearly every day there seems to be a new headline about healthy dieting or tips to living an active lifestyle. As most people struggle with choosing healthy food options and finding the time to get out and exercise, these struggles are often even greater for individuals who have survived a traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are many TBI-specific factors that affect the ability to live a healthy lifestyle: mobility impairment, memory deficits, transportation, hormone changes, sensory impairment and certain medications.
The Healthy Lifestyle Recipe
The components of a healthy lifestyle for people with and without a TBI for the most part, hold true for everyone. However, for people with TBI, it is important to take these six components and modify them slightly.
Acknowledging that taste and smell is sometimes changed for people with TBI is important when encouraging healthy eating. Setting reminders for when to eat throughout the day can also help those with memory impairment.
For people with TBI, it is important to work with a physician or physical therapist to find safe methods of exercise. 150 minutes of physical activity each week is recommended, but it is important to start at a slow, steady, and SAFE pace.
Nearly 60% of people with TBI experience difficulties with sleep. It is recommended that people with TBI talk to their doctor if sleep is an issue. It is also suggested to try avoiding caffeine, trying not to nap for more than 20 minutes during the day, and having a routine each night before going to bed.
With any sudden change in lifestyle, such as a traumatic brain injury, managing stress can be difficult. Loved ones of people with TBI can often have difficulty managing stress as well, as injury can affect the entire family. Being open about your stress with those around you is one way to help. Speaking to a therapist or psychologist is also helpful if your stress persists.
Socialization and Engagement
Research shows that people who engage in the community and socialize with those around them are happier, less likely to be overweight, and have higher quality of life. Community support groups for people with TBI are a great way to engage with people with similar injuries and can also help with managing stress.
While this is important for all people, for people with TBI, substance use can affect recovery and increase the risk of having another brain injury. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is very important.
Miguel Vargas is a former patient at Baylor Scott & White Rehabilitation and participated in a similar health-related study.
Support for People with TBI
Even though living a healthy lifestyle is important, few healthy lifestyle programs exist that specifically address the unique needs of people with TBI in our community. Researchers at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation have modified a national weight-loss program called the Group Lifestyle Balance™ for people with TBI and are currently offering it, as part of a research study, to members of our community with moderate to severe TBI.
More information about joining this program can be found here: Healthy Lifestyle After TBI.