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Women Can Cut Stroke Risk With Moderate Exercise

A racket or a romp through the neighborhood slashes chances of a brain attack by 20 percent in women

BHM Edit Staff | 2/14/2014, 5:41 p.m.
Women don't need to run or take a spinning class to cut stroke risk. depositphotos

Tennis, a brisk walk or other types of moderate exercise may lower a woman's stroke risk by 20 percent, according to the results of a new study.

"I was surprised that moderate physical activity was most strongly associated with a reduced risk of stroke," says study author Sophia Wang, a professor in the department of population sciences in the Beckman Research Institute. "More strenuous activity, such as running, didn't further reduce women's stroke risk. Moderate activity, such as brisk walking, appeared to be ideal."

The researchers, who looked at strokes that occurred among about 133,000 women in the California Teachers Study between 1996 and 2010, also found that women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopause symptoms were 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who never took HRT, but moderate exercise helped lower the increased risk.

The findings are clear for women: Include physical activity in your daily routine. "You don't have to do an extreme boot camp,” Wang says. “The types of activities we're talking about are accessible to most of the population.”

Though 87 percent of the study’s participants were white, Wang believes the results will apply to women in other racial/ethnic groups, too. This is especially important for black women, who have higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes—all risk factors for stroke—than their white counterparts. And it follows on the heels of new stroke guidelines issued for women.