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Women can dramatically slash their risk of strokes through regular walking

Monday, April 26, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: strokes, walking, health news

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(NaturalNews) A large, long-term study just reported in the American Heart Association journal Stroke has great news for women. Once again, a non-drug approach to avoiding one of the country's top killers has been shown to be a powerful "prescription". Harvard researchers found that women can dramatically slash their risk for both clot-caused (ischemic) strokes as well as bleeding (hemorrhagic) strokes by simply walking regularly.

"Though the exact relationship among different types of physical activity and different stroke subtypes remains unclear, the results of this specific study indicate that walking, in particular, is associated with lower risk of stroke," Jacob R. Sattelmair, M.Sc., lead author and doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement to the media.

The research team followed 39,315 U.S. female health professionals with an average age of 54 who were taking part in the Women's Health Study. Every two to three years, the study participants reported the physical activities they'd engaged in during the past years -- including walking or hiking, jogging, running, biking, doing aerobic exercise/aerobic dance, using exercise machines, playing tennis, swimming, or doing yoga. The women also reported how fast they tended to walk -- whether their walking pace was casual (about 2 mph), normal (2.9 mph), brisk (3.9 mph) or very brisk (4 mph).

At the end of the study, the researchers found that women who were the most active in their leisure time activities were 17 percent less likely to have any type of stroke compared to the least-active women. However, walking appeared to be an especially effective form of exercise when it came to preventing strokes.

Overall, compared to women who didn't walk for exercise, the Harvard study found that women who usually walked at a brisk pace had a 37 percent lower risk of any type of stroke and those who walked two or more hours a week had a 30 percent lower risk of any type of stroke.

When the researchers looked at how many of the study participants had specific kinds of strokes, they found that those who usually walked at a brisk pace had a 25 percent lower risk of blood clot-caused strokes. Those who usually walked more than two hours weekly had a 21 percent lower risk of this type of ischemic stroke.

While those figures are significant, the results of walking on preventing hemorrhagic strokes turned out to be downright amazing. Women who typically walked briskly had a 68 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke and those who walked two or more hours a week had a 57 percent lower risk of this type of bleeding stroke.

"Physical activity, including regular walking, is an important modifiable behavior for stroke prevention," Sattelmair stated. "Physical activity is essential to promoting cardiovascular health and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, and walking is one way of achieving physical activity."

If you want to make sure you are walking at a brisk pace, Sattelmair said you can use a heart rate monitor or simply estimate with the so-called "talk test". At a brisk pace, you should be able to talk but not able to sing. "If you cannot talk, slow down a bit. If you can sing, walk a bit faster," he explained in the press statement.

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