Physical inactivity continues to be a significant underlying cause of chronic illness and early death in the U.S., as sedentary Americans succumb to the utilitarian comforts of modern technology.
Lack of exercise, coupled with a largely processed food diet leads to potentially deadly diseases including cancer, dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Stroke incidence continues to increase at a staggering rate, affecting 425,000 women each year, often leaving them unable to perform routine daily tasks and increasing mortality risk.
Researchers from Spain have published the result of a study in the journal Stroke that has determined walking at least three hours a week reduces the risk of stroke among women by nearly half, yet another important reminder of the health benefits of exercising on a consistent basis. The study team set out to assess the association between regular physical activity and cerebrovascular diseases, defined as conditions that develop as a result of problems with the blood vessels inside the brain such as stroke.
A brisk walk improves vascular function in women to help prevent a stroke
To conduct the study, scientists developed a cohort consisting of 13,576 men and 19,416 women, aged 29 to 69 years who were part of the European Cancer Project that was initiated during the mid-1990s. Participants responded to a physical activity questionnaire and were divided by gender, type of physical activity and how much time they had spent on physical activity.
After a 12 year follow-up period, 442 stroke cases were recorded and subsequently classified as 80 percent ischemic, 10 percent hemorrhagic, seven percent subarachnoid hemorrhage, and three percent unspecified. Interestingly, the researchers determined that physical activity was associated with a stroke reduction risk for women but not men. Women who walked at least 210 minutes (three and a half hours) a week showed a reduced risk for stroke of 43 percent compared to those who did not participate in physical activity.
The team also revealed that other types of exercise, regardless of intensity had no significant association in stroke risk reduction. The study’s authors concluded “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.” Walking briskly for 30 minutes on most days of the week is not only a perfect complement to weight management strategies, but also dramatically lowers the risk of a devastating stroke in women.