Tip #9: Be active!

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.


Ask Me 3™ is a patient education program to promote communication between health care providers and patients to help improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Patients should be encouraged to ask their providers these three simple but essential questions in every health care interaction. Likewise, providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to these three questions. Studies show that people who thoroughly understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They also may get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.

TIP:  Bring all of your medications (including over the counter) to your annual physical.


Immunizations not only keep you healthy, they also help to keep the general population healthy by stopping the progressive spread of disease. While you may have received most necessary immunizations as a child, you should receive a tetanus shot every 10 years. An annual flu vaccine is also important, especially as we get older and face other illnesses. You also should request the pneumonia vaccine after 65 if you haven’t had one in five years. Get a booster shot for tetanus/diphtheria (TDAP), and prevent shingles with zoster vaccine.

TIP:  Ask your doctor about the shingles vaccine. It’s new. And get a flu vaccine every year.


Get motivated to get moving. There are two main components of a good exercise program:  aerobic exercise and strength training.  It is best to do both types, but any exercise is better than none. Aerobic exercise includes walking, swimming, using the elliptical, biking, and running. Walking is the safest and easiest aerobic exercise. Swimming or walking in the water is a good option if you have trouble walking on land, you are coming back from an injury, or you just like it. Utilizing the elliptical machine will burn calories without damaging arthritic joints. Biking is great for those who need or like to sit for exercise. Running can be hard on your body, but the cardiovascular rewards are unmatched.

Strength training can be as simple as lifting your 16 oz. water bottle. Working with elastic bands is a great low-impact way to begin strength training of the arms or legs.  Medicine balls can make strength training fun for the upper body, but keep a small range of motion if you are just starting out. Many repetitions of a light weight is just as efficient as a few repetitions of a heavy weight. Know your limits, and push them a little (not a lot).

TIP:  Exercise can be fun. Bribe yourself. Join a club. Bring friends. Listen to music or podcasts. Challenge each other. Reward good behavior.

Other health tips from Dr. Foody and Dr. Johnson:

*Come back tomorrow for one more health tip from Dr. Foody and Dr. Johnson.


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