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Even A Little Exercise May Help Cut Stroke Risk in Women


Whether you walk or run, exercise is good for the cardiovascular system. New research shows that for women, even moderate exercise can reduce stroke risk by 20% and offset the increased risk in women taking postmenopausal hormone therapy.

Professor Sophia Wang, of the Beckman Research Institute in California, and a team of researchers analyzed data from the California Teachers Study which consisted of over 130,000 women. Those who reported engaging in moderate physical activity in the three years prior were 20% less likely to suffer a stroke compared with women who reported having sedentary lifestyles.

The best news, says Wang, is that it doesn’t take a regimen of strenuous exercise to reduce risk. "Moderate activity, such as brisk walking appeared to be ideal in this scenario,” she says. Activities such as power walking and tennis do not require access to gyms and are therefore “accessible to most of the population.

More good news was found for postmenopausal women taking hormone therapy. HRT carries with it an increased risk of stroke. However, for those women who regularly exercised, their stroke risk was reduced to that similar to women not taking hormones.

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"The effects of physical activity and hormone therapy appear immediate and the benefits of physical activity are consistent in premenopausal and postmenopausal women," Prof. Wang says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 795,000 people in the US have a stroke each year, killing nearly 130,000 individuals and costing the US $38.6 billion.

Anyone can have a stroke no matter what age, race or gender. But the chances of having a stroke increase with certain risk factors, many of which are preventable. These include:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Diabetes
• Atherosclerosis
• Tobacco Use/Smoking
Physical Inactivity
• Obesity

To become more familiar with your personal risk for stroke, National Stroke Association developed an easy-to-use tool called a Stroke Risk Scorecard. The Scorecard provides an idea of a person's stroke risk. Once the scorecard is completed, discuss the results with a doctor, who will help assess the risk factors and help manage and/or treat any controllable risk factors. Remember: It is important to always take medications as a doctor prescribes to stay on top of stroke prevention.

American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference (Held February 12-14 in San Diego)

Additional Resources:
National Stroke Association