- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Being merely moderately fit — walking briskly half an hour a day — can lower the risk of having a stroke, according to a new study whose findings apply to women as well as men.

Much of the previous research on stroke and fitness has been on men and relied on participants to report their physical activity, said Steven Hooker, who heads the University of South Carolina’s Prevention Research Center in Columbia and led the study. About a quarter of those in the new study were women, and everyone had a treadmill test to measure his or her fitness level.

“It seems that benefits we’ve been observing in men for many years … are also observed in women,” Mr. Hooker said.

He said even those who were moderately fit had a lower risk of stroke. Most people can reach that fitness range by walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, five times a week, said Mr. Hooker, who presented the findings Thursday at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

Stroke is the nation’s third-leading cause of death. It occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped when a blood vessel is blocked by a clot or bursts. Mr. Hooker said physical activity can help prevent blood clots and the buildup of artery-clogging plaque.

For their research, Mr. Hooker and his colleagues used data from a study of more than 61,000 adults at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. After taking a treadmill test, the participants periodically answered health surveys. The latest research divided the group into four levels of fitness and looked at how many of them had strokes, following them an average of 18 years.

Overall, there were 692 strokes in men and 171 in women.

The study found that men in the most-fit group had a 40 percent lower risk of stroke than the least-fit men. The most-fit women had a 43 percent reduction in their risk of stroke compared with women in the least-fit group.

For moderate levels of fitness, the risk reduction ranged from 15 percent to 30 percent for men and 23 percent to 57 percent in women.

The lower risks held true even when taking into account other risk factors for stroke such as smoking, weight, high blood pressure, diabetes and family history.


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