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Moderate fitness cuts stroke chances

6th April 2010

By Deborah Condon.

A moderate level of aerobic fitness can significantly reduce the risk of stroke in men and women, the results of a major study indicate.

A team of US researchers analysed data on more than 60,000 adults who had participated in an aerobics study between 1970 and 2001. All had been healthy when they entered the study and were followed for an average of 18 years. During that time, 863 people had strokes.

Upon entering the study, each participant took a test to measure their cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). This involved them walking on a treadmill at increasing grade and/or speed until they reached their maximum aerobic capacity.

The researchers found that men with the highest CRF levels had a 40% lower risk of stroke compared to men with the lowest CRF levels.

Among women, those with the highest CRF levels had a 43% lower risk of stroke that those with the lowest fitness levels.

However the researchers also found that the risk of stroke dropped substantially among those with a moderate CRF. In fact, the drop in risk was almost the same as for those with higher fitness levels.

"Fitness has a protective effect regardless of the presence or absence of other stroke risk factors, including family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and high body mass index. However we found that a low-to-moderate amount of aerobic fitness for men and women across the whole adult age spectrum would be enough to substantially reduce stroke risk", said Dr Steven Hooker of the University of South Carolina.

Physical activity is a ‘major modifiable cardiovascular risk factor’ and increasing people’s CRF through regular physical activity ‘could be a vital weapon to lower the incidence of stroke in men and women’, he added.

Details of these findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.


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