Reduce risk of strokes by keeping fit during middle-age

All that hard work, effort and sweat to get and keep yourself fit as you age really does pay off. 

A new study conducted by the Cooper Institute in Dallas analyzed around 20,000 adults in their mid to late 40s finding individuals who kept themselves the most fit had a 37 percent reduced risk of a stroke after the age of 65 when compared with individuals who were the least fit.  Researchers speculated that exercise and achieving fitness helped prevent a stroke by keeping the blood vessels free of plaque and from stiffening to lowering inflammation affecting their functioning.

The researchers evaluated data collected at the Cooper Institute from 1999-2009 where treadmills were used to measure heart and lung exercise capacity when the participants were between the ages of 45 to 60. 

The fifth leading cause of death in the United States is stroke with nearly 800,000 people each year experiencing this leading cause of long-term disability.  A stroke is when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off depriving the brain cells of oxygen causing them to die.  As the brain cells die during a stroke, areas of the brain such as memory and muscle control can be lost.

Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented and this is why this study is encouraging news demonstrating how a lifestyle behavior appears to be a significant factor in lowering stroke risk.

The study took into account that even after other risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and even the participant’s diets were assessed, the protective effect of fitness remained. 

It all goes back to the importance of keeping and remaining physically active well into adulthood.  Incorporating exercise and physical activity must be a daily routine and not just an occasional occurrence in order to enhance and improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of stroke. 

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or biking.  Strength training is another important component of physical fitness and should be done at least 2-3 times a week. 

Even if you are middle-age and have not been very physically active over the years with room for improvement for getting in shape, it is not too late.  Studies have shown older adults can begin a fitness routine that will result in reaping the health benefits exercise has to offer.  But, be sure to check with your physician before starting a vigorous exercise program.  Even achieving fitness late in life can lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.