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Walking Associated With Lower Stroke Risk

A long-term study has reported that women can dramatically slash their risk for strokes by simply walking regularly.

Women who walked two or more hours a week or who usually walked at a brisk pace, had a significantly lower risk of stroke than women who didn't walk, a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American heart Association recently reported.

The risks were lower for total stroke, clot-related (ischemic) stroke and bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke, researchers said.

Compared to women who didn't walk:

  • Women who usually walked at a brisk pace had a 37 percent lower risk of any type of stroke, and those who walked two or more hours a week had a 30 percent lower risk of any type of stroke;

  • Women who typically walked at a brisk pace had an amazing 68 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, and those who walked two or more hours a week had a 57 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke;

  • Women who usually walked at a brisk pace had a 25 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke, and those who usually walked more than two hours a week had a 21 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke.

"Physical activity, including regular walking, is an important modifiable behavior for stroke prevention," said the lead author.

"Physical activity is essential to promoting cardiovascular health and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, and walking is one way of achieving physical activity."

More physically active people generally have a lower risk of stroke than the least active, with more-active persons having a 25 percent to 30 percent lower risk for all strokes, according to previous studies.

"Though the exact relationship among different types of physical activity and different stroke subtypes remains unclear, the results of this specific study indicate that walking, in particular, is associated with lower risk of stroke," the author said.

Study Details

Researchers followed 39,315 U.S. female health professionals with an average age of 54. Every two to three years, participants reported their leisure-time physical activity during the past year - specifically time spent walking or hiking, jogging, running, biking, doing aerobic exercise, using exercise machines, playing tennis/squash/racquetball, swimming, doing yoga and stretching/toning. No household, occupational activity or sedentary behaviors were assessed.

They also reported their usual walking pace as no walking, casual (about 2 mph), normal (2-2.9 mph), brisk (3-3.9 mph) or very brisk (4 mph).

During 11.9 years of follow-up, 579 women had a stroke (473 were ischemic, 102 were hemorrhagic and four were of unknown type).

The women who were most active in their leisure time activities were 17 percent less likely to have any type of stroke compared to the least-active women.

Researchers didn't find a link between vigorous activity and reduced stroke risk. The reason is unclear, but they suspect that too few women reported vigorous activity in the study to get an accurate picture and/or that moderate-intensity activity may be more effective at lowering blood pressure as suggested by some previous research.

Research Paper Details:

Sattelmair JR, Kurth T, Buring JE, Lee IM. Physical Activity and Risk of stroke in Women. Stroke. 2010 Apr 6.