Healthy Brain Campaign: Get active

The OHSU Brain Institute has launched the Healthy Brain Campaign to spread the message that the key to maintaining a healthy brain is to do all of the things you know are good for your heart and your overall health. That is why we are dedicating each month, from March until October, to following the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” steps to living a healthier lifestyle. During May, we urge you to take the second step in the series on “Life’s Simple 7” — which is to get active!

Get active by engaging in thirty minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week.  Physical activity may help you lose or maintain weight, lower your blood pressure, increase your HDL (or “good” cholesterol) and keep your blood sugar levels under control. Regular moderate physical activity (for 150 minutes or more per week) can help increase energy levels, relieve stress, and have a positive effect on mood.

And what about the flipside? Being physically inactive promotes an increase in several cardiovascular risk factors — such as cholesterol problems, hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity — that can contribute to poor cognitive health. Despite the health benefits of getting active, nearly 70 percent of Americans do not get the physical activity they need.
Here are some basics about cardiovascular risk factors, which can contribute to poor cognitive health:

• The most common risk factors for cardiovascular disease in the United States are physical inactivity and obesity.

• The deaths of more than 200,000 people aged 75 and younger from heart disease and stroke in 2010 could have been prevented with lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise.

• There are approximately 700,000 heart attacks and nearly 800,000 strokes each year in the United States.

So how can you get active?

• Walk. Get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather — or even the light rain — during your lunch breaks, before or after work and on weekends.  You can record your daily steps with a pedometer and set a goal for yourself to gradually reach the recommended 10,000 steps a day

• Join a Team. It helps to have encouragement and support from workout companions, especially on days when you are feeling less than motivated to exercise. SW Trails PDX is a community group that promotes walking and biking in southwest Portland by leading regular monthly hikes.

• Stay Active at Work – The United States Department of Agriculture has provided several innovative “Tips for Increasing Physical Activity” at home, play and work. Among the recommendations: when coming home from work, people can get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk or bike the remainder of the way home.

Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program. If you want guidance in initiating an exercise plan, explore the OHSU Medical Exercise Program or call us for more info, at 503-418-6272.

James Chesnutt, M.D.
Medical Director
OHSU March Wellness & Fitness Center and OHSU Concussion Program

Sarah Brown
Research Assistant
OHSU Brain Institute