Monday, April 28, 2014

Walk More To Cut Stroke Risk!

Stroke is a major cause of death and disability. Finding ways to prevent it, especially in older people who are at high stroke risk, is very important. In fact, up to 80 percent of all strokes could be prevented.

Choosing a healthy lifestyle is perhaps the best way to prevent stroke. It includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough exercise, not smoking and limiting alcohol use.

There is no doubt that physical activity can help one maintain a healthy weight and lower his or her cholesterol and blood pressure levels. For adults, 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking or bicycling is required every week. But for older folks, it seems that walking might be the only option as many are not capable of having intense exercise. 

A recent study published online November 14, 2013 in journal ‘Stroke’ reported that older men who spend several hours walking each day, irrespectively of pace, are less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely walk.

Researchers from University College of London and St George's University of London followed 3,435 ambulatory men, who aged between 60 and 70 and were free from heart disease and stroke between 1998 and 2000, for 11 years. These men reported usual physical activity (regular walking, cycling, recreational activity, and sport) in 1998 until 2000, and the nurses took fasting blood samples and made comparative measurements of the body.

The participants were divided into 5 groups according to how long they walked: 0 to 3 hours, 4 to 7 hours, 8 to 14 hours, 15 to 21 hours, and more than 22 hours a week. Overall, 42 percent of men walked for more than 8 hours a week, and 9 percent walked more than 22 hours a week.

During the follow-up period of 11 years, 195 first strokes occurred. Stroke risk of men who walked 8 to 14 hours a week was reduced by approximately one-third when compared to men who walked 0 to 3 hours a week. Those who walked more than 22 hours a week reduced their stroke risk by about two-thirds.

Compared to men who walked at a slower pace, men who walked faster had a one-third reduction in stroke risk. This was, however, attributed to the fact that they walked for a longer distance than the men who walked slower.

While the findings did not prove walking prevents strokes, they did suggest that maintaining an active lifestyle, specifically by walking, could be an important part of stroke prevention strategies in older people.

As suggested by the researchers, walking for leisure in a park or just walking around indoors at least 1 hour a day could protect against stroke.

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