Daily Health Advisors

Exercise and Break a Sweat to Prevent Stroke

March 23, 2017

Stroke incidence continues to rise in western cultures, and it now ranks as the third leading cause of death in the US this year. Cerebrovascular disorders, similar to heart disease, cancer and dementia, are largely preventable lifestyle diseases fueled by dietary indiscretions, environmental and household exposure to toxins, smoking and lack of physical activity. Strokes strike more than 800,000 people in the US each year, killing more than 150,000 and leading to permanent disability for many others.


Scientists from the University of South Australia and the University of Alabama have published the results from a study in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke, that demonstrates how people who work out enough to break a sweat, and do it regularly, are less likely to have a stroke compared to people who are physically inactive. People who admit they are physically inactive have a twenty percent higher risk of stroke or mini-stroke (TIA) as compared to those who exercise enough to break a sweat four or more times a week.


Researchers studying the risk factors for stroke have previously identified elevated blood pressure and lack of moderate exercise as the top two causes of stroke. The team working on this study explained their study was the first to “quantify protective effects of physical activity on stroke in a large multiracial group of men and women in the United States.” Lead author, Dr. Michelle McDonnell and her team followed more than 27,000 Americans, all aged 47 years or more, for an average of 5.7 years.


Regular physical activity lowers blood pressure and helps improve vessel elasticity to prevent stroke


The participants were part of the Reasons for Geographic and Ethnic Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study and included equal numbers of males and females, as well as Caucasians and African-Americans. The researchers noted that a disproportionate number of participants were from the southern ‘stroke belt’ states where the typical diet is weighted toward fatty fried foods rich in salt and linked to a higher risk of stroke. The volunteers in the study reported on how often they exercised, though details on how long each exercise session lasted were not recorded.


The scientists found that one third of all people studied said they exercised less than once a week, and those who exercised less than once a week had a twenty percent higher chance of experiencing a stroke or TIA. Additionally the team found that the men who exercised moderately or vigorously, enough to break a sweat four times a week or more were less likely to have a stroke.


Dr. McDonnell concluded “The stroke-lowering benefits of physical activity are related to its impact on other risk factors. Exercise reduces blood pressure, weight and diabetes. If exercise was a pill, you’d be taking one pill to treat four or five different conditions.” This study provides conclusive data to support a regular exercise program of moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes per session on most days of the week to lower risk of a stroke by one-fifth.



Don Fisher D.O.

Medical Director/ Physician

The BEST Program, Inc. 


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