By Phillip A. Koren, MD and Fredric L. Ginsberg, MD
It’s that time of year again. The holidays have passed and the new year has started. And, along with millions of others, we vow to take better care of ourselves in the coming year. There are ads for diet and exercise programs on television 24/7 all trying to motivate us to get started now toward a healthier, thinner, happier you. Even famous celebrities have come out telling us to be the best we can be.
Often, taking care of or improving our health involves making rather simple lifestyle modifications such as getting regular blood pressure and cholesterol checkups, giving up bad habits like smoking, and being more active. These simple steps can go a long way toward maintaining good health and staving off long-term, potentially health-threatening diseases.
We know that:
- About 70 million American adults (29 percent) have high blood pressure—that’s one of every three adults. Only about half (52 percent) of the people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
- More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- A new government study estimates that nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week, potentially setting themselves up for years of health problems.
- The U.S. government recommends adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of a vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. Adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights or doing push-ups at least twice per week.
Get up and start moving!
Sitting around may be as deadly as smoking, studies suggest. New research published in The Lancet finds about one-in-10 deaths worldwide are caused by people not getting up and engaging in physical activity such as walking 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
Physical inactivity can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. Exercise can help control weight, and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers while providing mental health benefits. In fact, in a recent New York Times article, it was suggested that a fit body led to a fit brain. There is evidence that physical exercise in the elderly is associated with improved bone health as well.
Studies have also shown that exercise and moderate weight training may improve brain function. In several of these studies, regular exercise and gentle weight training showed a marked slowdown in lesions in the brain. Lesions are thought to contribute to overall thought-processing decline and memory loss.
In broad terms, these studies concluded that regular exercise is thought to help maintain brain function and offers some anti-aging benefits. These studies did not indicate that you need large amounts of exercise, but that exercise in any amount can have a positive impact on your health and may even stave off premature death in some individuals. The ideal dose seems to be about an hour per day of moderate exercise, such as walking, which is enough to have a positive impact.
At the Cooper Heart Institute, we want you to take care of yourself and follow some simple, proven advice in 2016 – make an appointment to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked this year and add exercise to your daily routine.
Your body and even your mind will thank you for it!
For more information, please go to Cooperhealth.org/Heart.