Get Out and Walk - Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

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Regular aerobic exercise is known to benefit the cardiovascular system, but some may underestimate the effects of walking thinking it isn’t intense enough. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health have found that regular walking, particularly at a brisk pace, reduced the risk of stroke in women.

About 39,000 women, aged 45 and older (average age 54), were involved in the 12-year-long Women’s Health Study. The participants reported their leisure-time activity every few years during the study, including how much time they spent doing activities such as walking, jogging and biking.

Over that course of the study, 579 had strokes. Those who were the most active in any activity were 17% less likely to suffer any type of stroke. Those who walked at least two hours a week had a 30% lower risk of stroke than those who did not walk for exercise. Women who picked up the pace to cover 3 miles an hour reduced the risk of any type of stroke by 37%, and hemorrhagic stroke by 68%.

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“Physical activity, including regular walking, is an important modifiable behavior for stroke prevention,” said lead researcher Jacob R. Sattelmair in a news release. “Physical activity is essential to promoting cardiovascular health and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, and walking is one way of achieving physical activity.”

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, type 2 diabetes, migraine headaches, postmenopausal hormone use, and taking oral contraceptives.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Source reference:
Sattelmair JR, et al "Physical activity and risk of stroke in women" Stroke 2010; DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.584300.

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