Walking to help prevent stroke

A new study suggests that walking regularly may be an important prevention tool in guarding against stroke. The study found that women who walk for at least two hours a week appear to have a lower risk of stroke than those who walk less than that amount.

A new study suggests that walking regularly may be an important prevention tool in guarding against stroke. The study found that women who walk for at least two hours a week appear to have a lower risk of stroke than those who walk less than that amount.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Each year, between 40,000 and 50,000 Canadians are hospitalized for a stroke and approximately 15,000 of them die as a result of it. In 2003, approximately 272,000 Canadians lived with the sequela of a stroke.

Most strokes are caused by a blood clot that obstructs a blood vessel in the brain, which prevents the blood and oxygen from reaching the cells of the affected region. The stroke may also be caused by a blood vessel rupturing and subsequently bleeding. In both cases, brain cells can die, which then impedes the body functions for which these cells were previously responsible. The risk of stroke increases with age.

As part of a recently published study, 39,000 women aged 45 or older reported the amount of leisure time they devoted to physical activity at the start of the study (between 1992 and 1995), and then periodically afterwards. During the follow-up period of nearly 12 years, 579 women suffered a stroke. The study showed that the most active participants were 17 percent less likely to suffer a stroke. Compared with the women who didn’t walk at all, those who walked at least two hours a week, regardless of pace, cut their risk of stroke by 30 percent. In addition, the women who walked at a pace of at least five kilometres an hour had a 37 percent lower risk of suffering any type of stroke than those who walked at a slower pace.

This study therefore adds to the overall evidence of the benefits that physical exercise has on cardiovascular health in general and the prevention of stroke in particular. While men were not included in this study, the many benefits of regular physical activity have also been proven for them. So, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come for walking regularly!

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