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A walk a day… can prevent the risk of stroke

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Lace up those tennis shoes and get moving – it could keep you from having a debilitating stroke.

A new study finds if you’re moderately fit, your risk of stroke goes way down.

“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,” says lead author Steven Hooker, Ph.D., University of South Carolina.

So just how much exercise do you need? Hooker says 30 minutes or more of brisk walking – or an equivalent aerobic activity – five days a week is enough to help protect you.

The study looked at more than 60,000 adults ages 18-100 at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. Participants were divided into four groups based on their levels of fitness and followed for an average of 18 years. During that time, 692 men and 171 women had strokes.

Results show men in the most fit group had a 40 percent lower risk of stroke than those in the least fit group. And women who were most fit lowered their risk by 43 percent compared with women who were the least fit.

Hooker says one of the limitations of the study is that most of the participants were white, well-educated and middle-upper income. He recommends studying other populations.

About 780,000 adults in the U.S. have a stroke each year. According to the American Stroke Association, it is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in this country and the third leading cause of death.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2008.

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