Skip to main content

New study finds seniors may be able to sweat away stroke risk

July 22, 2013

Strokes are a leading health risk for adults, especially seniors, but a new study from the University of Australia found that one of the simplest ways to reduce chances of an event may be one of the most beneficial overall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 795,000 people experience a stroke each year, and about 76 percent of strokes occur among those over age 65. Since strokes are a leading cause of disability, and the risk only increases with age, it is imperative that older adults take steps to improve their health in an effort to prevent strokes. According to the results of this study, breaking a sweat while exercising could be an effective way to lower the chances of experiencing a stroke.

Getting active and breaking a sweat can reduce stroke risk
The study, published in the journal Stroke, examined more than 27,000 American adults over the age of 45 for an average of 5.7 years, and the results highlight how crucial physical activity is to healthy senior living. Participants who reported exercising no more than once a week (one-third of the study group) were 20 percent more likely to have strokes or mini strokes than individuals who exercised vigorously four times a week or more. Moderate to vigorous activity levels were enough for participants to sweat, leading researchers to connect the intensity level to better health benefits.

"The stroke-lowering benefits of physical activity are related to its impact on other risk factors," said study author Dr. Michelle McDonnell, a lecturer at the School of Health Sciences at the International Centre for Allied Health Evidence at the University of Australia. "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."

Other ways to improve health and lower chances of stroke
Exercising is not the only way older adults can improve their health and lower their risk of having a stroke. The American Stroke Association indicates that eating a healthy diet that is low in calories, sodium, cholesterol and trans fat can be highly beneficial, particularly when it includes lots of fruits and vegetables. Cutting back on alcohol consumption - no more than two drinks a day, if any - and quitting smoking are both great ways to reduce stroke risk, and eliminating these habits can have a greater impact on a senior's overall health by helping maintain a healthy weight and improving organ function.