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Tips on Exercise, Brain Health and Managing Stress: A Woman’s Journey

Posted on May 07, 2019

As Mother’s Day approaches, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital continues its belief that healthy families start with a healthy mom, which is why physicians from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore recently traveled here to speak on three very important topics. Hundreds of local women gathered in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota for Johns Hopkins Medicine’s A Woman’s Journey, the area’s seventh-annual conference with Johns Hopkins physicians to empower women through health education about medical advances.

2019 Topics

  • Thrive to Survive—Physiatrist Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • New Things You Should Know About Your Brain—Neurologist Justin McArthur, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., founding director of the Johns Hopkins/National Institute of Mental Health Research Center for Novel Therapeutics of HIV-associated cognitive disorders
  • Coping with Life: Why Managing Stress is So Important—Psychiatrist Karen Swartz, M.D., director of Clinical and Educational Programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center

Top Takeaways

Thrive to Survive –the importance of exercise and how to incorporate it into your life.

“Enjoy life, enjoy exercise–let’s live happy and healthy lives!” – Dr. Gonzalez-Fernandez

  • Benefits:

    • Improves cardiovascular health and your psychological well-being, including your interactions with others
    • Maintains bone health
    • Increases metabolism
    • Decreases the possibility of muscular and skeletal conditions
    • Helps with sleep
  • Follow the 3 S’s

    • Stamina–This is about exercising our hearts. Aerobic exercise is important. Best way? Ten-minute bouts, 60 minutes a day, five to seven times a week. Suggestions? Walking, gardening—incorporating moderate to vigorous activity into our normal routines.
    • Strength—Weight training is important because it helps build new muscle and increase metabolism. Best options? Weights and plastic bands. Do repetitions: two sets of 10 to 12. It is best to do upper body one day and lower body the next day.
    • Stretching is important because it maintains muscle flexibility.

New Things You Should Know About Your Brain–Although the number of neurological diseases is increasing, treatment advancements are helping to control or cure these diseases.

“I truly believe many of our neurological diseases will be treatable in the next decade. I believe we are poised for major advancements.” – Dr. McArthur

  • Our brain has 100 billion nerve cells and is the most complex organ in the body.
  • Neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s and stroke are on the rise and becoming nearly as prevalent as cancer.
    • What can we do to prevent, treat and hopefully cure them?
      • During the “Enlighten Trial,” participants with normal cognitive function did moderate exercise and followed the Dash Diet created by Johns Hopkins Medicine, and researchers saw that their cognitive abilities actually improved.
      • Identifying and diagnosing an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease as early as possible is key in addressing modifiable risk factors. And, as new and definitive treatments come on line, for beginning disease-modifying treatments.
      • New research supported by the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN initiative suggests there is actually activation in both sides of the brain with voluntary movements of one arm. This information may allow us to create new and more effective forms of rehabilitation for people with stroke and brain injuries. New scientific research  has  shown that nerve cells do regenerate into later life, and this means treatment approaches to stimulate nerve cell regeneration might be created to overcome Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Coping with Life: Why Managing Stress is So Important

“When you have high levels of stress, you have very high cortisol levels. This sets our system up for negative outcomes. Practice mindfulness and gratitude. Be kind. Bring positive energy into your life.” – Dr. Swartz

  • Our bodies are constantly trying to seek balance.
  • Exercise is great for sleep, which helps with stress. Turn your screens off before bed and don’t let pets sleep with you.
  • Build resilience. Build skills to bend not break when stress enters your life.
  • Think of it like changing your channel. When negative thoughts come, with more practice you can shut it down and switch to positive.
  • When you’re less resilient, you live in the negative and sometimes use unhealthy techniques to cope. This could also be a sign of a bigger issue–like anxiety or depression.
  • Who we are as people determines how resilient we are–know yourself!
    • Introverts: Hold grudges and emotions come on slowly but can be strong and hang around.
    • Extroverts: Have quick emotions that can be strong, but they don’t hang around. They get bored easily and want to move on.
  • Practice Positive Psychology Exercises–the goal is to get better control of your emotions so they don’t spill over into the negative.

    • Write down three good things about life every day.
    • Try practicing relaxation techniques.
    • Practice mindfulness and gratitude.
  • Final tip: Joy and fun helps cope with stress, too!

These programs raise money for the Johns Hopkins All Children’s fetal care program, which aims to provide seamless care for high-risk expectant mothers and their babies for the most successful outcomes possible. This year, the event raised more than $150,000 with more gifts still coming in. To learn more about how you can give to our hospital, you can visit the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation page.


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