Stroke is preventable, and physical activity is a major modifiable risk factor for stroke.
New research findings suggest that regularly breaking a sweat may lower the risk of having a stroke.
A stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain gets blocked. As a result, nearby brain cells will die after not getting enough oxygen and other nutrients. A number of risk factors for stroke have been identified, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and being inactive.
The researchers reported data for over 27,000 participants who were stroke-free at the start of the study and followed for an average of 5.7 years. One-third of participants reported exercising less than once a week. Study subjects who were inactive were 20 percent more likely to experience a stroke or TIA than participants who exercised four or more times a week.
The findings revealed that regular, moderately vigorous exercise, enough to break a sweat, was linked to reduced risk of stroke. Part of the protective effect was due to lower rates of known stroke risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and smoking.
“Physical inactivity is a major modifiable risk factor for stroke. This should be emphasized in routine physician check-ups along with general education about the benefits of exercise on stroke risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight or obese,” said Virginia Howard, Ph.D., senior author of the study from the School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The study suggests that men should consider exercising at least four times a week.
The above story is based on the July 18, 2013 news release by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The findings are published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke:
McDonnell M N, Hillier S L, Hooker S P, Le A, Howard V J. Physical Activity. Frequency and Risk of Incident Stroke in a National US Study of Blacks and Whites. Stroke, 2013