Improvement in Stroke Risk Depends on Exercise Intensity
Ischemic stroke is a consequence of atherosclerotic plaque build up in the arteries that deliver blood to the brain. Genetics aside, the most common causes of stroke include having diagnosed conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, being overweight, and/or smoking. A recent study published in the journal Neurology suggests that a lack of moderate to vigorous physical activity should be added to the list of direct causes of ischemic stroke. Previously, researchers believed that physical activity was important for its indirect effects on body weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.
Researchers collected baseline information on leisure-time physical activities from over 3000 stroke-free older men participating in the Northern Manhattan Study. Over the course of a ~9.1 year follow-up, researchers documented nearly 240 ischemic strokes. Interestingly, 40.5% of the population studied was inactive. Moreover, it appears that participation in moderate to vigorous physical exercise was essential to reducing stroke risk when compared to "any" physical activity and even weekly total calorie expenditure.
Although previous studies involving women have reported that light activities provide a small reduction in stroke risk, this study is the first to indicate a need for higher intensity exercise to improve stroke risk factors.
Willey, J. Z., et al, Physical activity and risk of ischemic stroke in the Northern Manhattan Study. Neurology 73: 1774 – 1779.