A study presented at the American Stroke Association’s recent International Stroke Conference 2008 suggests that achieving a moderate level of cardiovascular fitness can reduce stroke risk  in men and women.
In the first study to explore the link between cardiovascular fitness and stroke risk, a research team led by the director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina analyzed data on more than 60,000 people participating in the long-running Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study between 1970 and 2001. After an average of 18 years, 692 men and 171 women had experienced a stroke.
When comparing this data to participants’ previous performance on a graded treadmill test, the researchers found that men in the top quartile in terms of cardiovascular fitness had a 40% lower relative risk of stroke compared to those who were the least fit. Similarly, women with the highest level of cardiovascular fitness had a 43% lower relative risk than their less-fit peers.
The researchers note that overall stroke risk dropped substantially with moderate levels of cardiovascular fitness and remained virtually unchanged as cardiovascular fitness increased. So how much exercise are we talking? According to researchers, all you really need is 30 minutes or more of aerobic activity – brisk walking for instance – five times per week. Not bad, eh?
Commenting on the study, the lead author notes that “fitness has a protective effect regardless of the presence or absence of other stroke risk factors,” adding that increasing the nation’s cardiovascular fitness levels through increased physical activity could “substantially reduce stroke risk” in men and women.
So what’s the take home message here? If anything, it underscores the importance of exercise as part of the daily routine and really makes a case that when it comes to physical activity, even a little goes a long way! And while you might be sitting here thinking you’re too young to worry about having a stroke, consider this: A report  published in CNI (Colorado Neurological Institute) Review suggests that the annual stroke incidence among Swedish adults under age 55 is 34 in 100,000. Although certainly not high odds, it goes to show that it is never too early to begin taking steps to prevent stroke.
For more information on strokes, including lifesaving tips on the warning signs of a stroke, please visit the American Stroke Association’s Web site .
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