A Toothbrush, a Stork and Two Minutes Twice a Day
I love helping people learn simple solutions that have outsized impacts. This blog teaches you how a toothbrush, a stork and four minutes a day can prevent falls, fall-related injuries and may even save your life or the life of someone you love.
Fall statistics aren’t pretty. Falls and fall-related injuries are the cause for most osteoporosis fractures and deaths from osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis and you fracture a hip, you have up to about a 20% chance of dying in the first year. If you happen to survive, 50% of you are going to be released to nursing home care. And another 20% of those who survive may end up with chronic, debilitating pain and other side effects for years to come. And if that weren’t bad enough, risk of death in people with osteoporosis who break a hip is increased for the next 10 years.
Taking steps to prevent falls and fall-related injuries is crucial. Everyone stumbles, but not every stumble turns into a fall. The other day I accidentally took a misstep walking down the stairs in our house. Fortunately, I caught myself and didn’t fall.
The reason I was able to catch myself is because my balance is good. I do balance exercises. This is where your toothbrush, a stork and four minutes a day comes in. This is a great exercise you can do to improve your balance, reduce your risk of falling and fall related injuries.
The best dental recommendations are for everybody to brush their teeth twice a day. Two minutes each time—one minute on the bottom teeth and a minute on the top teeth. Everybody should be doing that. If you’re not, it’s time to start, because poor dental hygiene has been shown to be a risk factor for heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and dementia.
Storks are famous for standing on one leg. That’s what you’ll do while brushing your teeth. While you’re spending one the minute on the bottom teeth, simply stand on one leg. You can grab the counter to steady yourself a little bit if you need it.
When you finish the bottom teeth after a minute and move to the top teeth, switch legs. Spend another minute on the top teeth brushing and standing on the other leg. Again, you can steady yourself by touching the counter if you need it but try not to. And that’s your two minutes, twice a day.
If you have an electric toothbrush, like a Sonicare or something similar, it times the two minutes for you. Many electric toothbrushes beep to let you know when it’s time to switch to the top teeth and are programmed to turn off automatically after two minutes. So each time you brush, the toothbrush is ensuring you’re getting your two minutes in, twice a day.
When you’re starting out with this, you may need to steady yourself using the counter more than you’d like, but over time your balance should improve and you’ll find yourself needing to grab the counter less and less.
The Stork Exercise tightens your core a little bit, engages your supporting muscles in your legs, improves your balance and it can reduce the risk of you falling, which reduces your risk of all fall-related injuries.
I’ve been teaching patients this simple and powerful exercise for years. To get the most out of it, you need to do it consistently. Try it twice a day for a couple of weeks. You’ll feel steadier, stronger and be taking a powerful step toward reducing your risk for dangerous falls.
For more tips on what you can do to reduce fracture risk, read my blog, Your Checklist to Prevent Falls and Fractures at Home.
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Daly B, Thompsell A, Sharpling J, et al. Evidence summary: the relationship between oral health and dementia. Br Dent J. 2018;223(11):846-853. [Article]
Leibson CL, Tosteson AN, Gabriel SE, Ransom JE, Melton LJ. Mortality, disability, and nursing home use for persons with and without hip fracture: a population-based study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2002;50(10):1644-1650. [Article]
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