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Stroke, does the risk decrease if we start exercising during middle age?

January 1, 2018

If you have been sedentary until the age of forty, it would be good to start exercising: this helps both heart and brain health. By entering the middle age, and beginning to practice physical activity, the risk of stroke could be significantly reduced. This is what researchers from the University of Oslo (Norway) observed in a study published on the European Heart Journal. We talk about this topic with Dr. Simona Marcheselli, Head of the Emergency Neurology and Stroke Unit at Humanitas.


In a prospective study, the researchers followed around 1,400 healthy men aged between 40 and 59 years for a little less than thirty years. Their level of physical activity was assessed at the start of the study and seven years later. Out of these, about one in three people had increased their level of physical activity.


Well, changes in the fitness level were associated with a different risk of stroke: this was halved among those who had increased it than the group that had become even more sedentary. ‘Researchers have evaluated activity levels only twice, so it is not possible to rule out that additional risk factors for stroke could have occurred’, recalls Dr Marcheselli. ‘However – she continues – the results suggest once again the importance of activity levels for the prevention of this serious pathology’.

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The benefits of physical activity

According to a study published last year in the Lancet, nine out of ten strokes could be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. One of its pillars is of course regular physical activity, and it could also be during middle age, although it is preferable to start practicing it at a very young age. ‘This is a delicate period: women are going through hormone changes with menopause, while both men and women tend to become a little more sedentary. As far as possible, and in an appropriate manner to their health conditions, it is always good for them to keep active’.


The benefits of physical activity are varied, and many of these closely affect the cardio-cerebrovascular wellbeing by helping to reduce the risk of stroke: ‘Physical activity helps to control the risk factors of stroke as well as excess weight, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. Often, an active lifestyle is also associated with a healthier diet and the absence of cigarette addiction’, adds the specialist.


The advice is to always follow the indications provided by WHO-World Health Organization: ‘From 18 to 64 years, you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of high intensity, per week; less than 30 minutes of walking at a fast pace per week are fine, evenly distributed in four or five days’, concludes Dr. Marcheselli.

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