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People are hanging their Christmas trees upside down

Blood Pressure a Major Concern for Blaine

In particular, Ruden and other physicians agreed that Blaine will face multitude of risks associated with the unusual increase in blood pressure that Blaine will experience.

“The heart is centered pretty close to the head, so it does not have to pump blood very high,” Ruden said. “When you flip it around, though, the toes are four and a half feet from the heart. So the heart has to pump blood to a higher altitude than what it is used to.”

This, in turn, means a higher blood pressure. With this risk come a number of possible problems — not the least of which are stroke and possible blindness as the blood pressure in his eyes increases.

Blaine said doctors will be on hand during the stunt, checking for brain hemorrhaging and stroke and making sure his vision stays clear.

“Certainly, [the stunt] could potentially be very dangerous because the brain relies on gravity to allow blood to flow out of the skull,” said Dr. Wendy Wright, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

“Hanging upside down could cause blood to pool in the skull and pressure could build up inside the brain and eyes,” Wright said. “This may result in congestion in the blood vessels causing stokes, or even rupturing of blood vessels causing bleeding. Seizures or death may also result.”

The lower extremities have no such problem, of course; as long as we’re up and about, our leg muscles do yeoman’s work in squeezing the blood back to the heart.

“The lower extremities of man are endowed with constrictor mechanisms that protect the small arteries and capillaries from damage when we stand up,” said Dr. Jay Cohn, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

“The brain does not have such constrictor mechanisms,” he added. “Therefore, prolonged position with the head down may increase pressure in the small arteries and capillaries and lead to blood vessel rupture or blood leakage.”

So as Blaine quite literally turns millions of years of evolution on its head, he will also be tempting injury and death. And any pre-existing health conditions could make the stunt even more risky.

“This could be worse if he has high blood pressure to start with,” said Dr. Richard Smalling, director of interventional cardiovascular medicine at the Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

“If he had any previously undiagnosed vascular abnormalities in his brain the risk would be magnified substantially. Hopefully these issues have already been investigated and he has been cleared medically.”

Cardiovascular issues are only part of the picture. Wright said Blaine will also have to contend with a restricted ability to breathe, because his diaphragm will be upside down, with the weight of his intestines pushing upon it. And a lack of proper blood flow to his legs, if profound, may cause muscle tissue to die off as it is starved of oxygen.

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Benefits of Hanging Upside Down

My children hang upside down off the couch all the time. They are literally just hanging there, watching TV, talking to each other. As it turns out, there are benefits to hanging upside down.

Activities that involve hanging upside down are the most effective when done for short periods of time throughout the day.

For example, you could try planned sensory breaks every two hours that last 5 to 7 minutes each (they don’t need to be upside down that whole time, but these short breaks have their own benefits)

Plus, the benefits of hanging upside down can last for hours. In fact, we could all benefit from hanging upside down for short increments during the day.

Benefits of Hanging Upside Down

There are many benefits to hanging upside down. Including:

  • Regulates the nervous system
  • Provides unique vestibular input
  • Can be calming, or alerting
  • Prevents meltdowns
  • Relieves back pain by taking pressure off the discs
  • Improve spinal health and flexibility
  • Some small studies also suggest it improves brain function

Although there can be risks involved if inverting the head for extended periods of time, generally speaking, kids can hang upside down as often as they like. as long as you are following their cues.

If at any time your child indicates that they don’t want to be upside down, or they complain of feeling dizzy, you should stop immediately.

Other Vestibular Input Activities

Hanging upside down is not the only thing that stimulates the vestibular system – although it is one of the most effective and unique experiences.

Other activities and games you can play include:

  • Freeze dance (one of our favorites) – everybody dances really fast to the music and then when the song pauses you freeze! no matter what silly position you were in.
  • This 7 minute HIIT workout
  • Riding a bike
  • Playing on the swings and slides at the playground
  • Swimming (also a great proprioceptive activity)
  • Rhythmic bouncing or rocking on your lap
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Pulling your child around the floor on a blanket
  • Crashpad
  • Playing ring-around-the-Rosie
  • This morning workout for kids
  • Basically, anything that involves moving your body, especially your head.

If you’d like even more ideas for sensory activities, read: 52 Vestibular Input Activities for Sensory Seekers

Modern Day Inverted Christmas Tree

In recent years, these topsy-turvy trees have made a comeback, particularly in department stores and malls. Besides just being a striking design choice, it’s actually pretty beneficial. Since it’s attached to the ceiling, this way of hanging clears up more floor space for merchandise. Also, more ornaments are displayed on eye-level.

If you’re think an upside down tree and more floor space would look good in your home this holiday, there are plenty of inverted Christmas trees online to check out. Either way, these upside down trees are here to stay.

Katie Bourque As an Editorial Fellow for Good Housekeeping, Katie covers health, beauty, home, and pop culture.

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