Getting fitter during middle age could halve your risk of stroke

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Getting fitter during middle age could halve your risk of stroke
03/10/2017

A new study shows that getting fitter during middle age could halve your risk of stroke in later life, but as a nation we’re becoming less and less active



In a new study presented at the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) congress in Barcelona this August, researchers have found that changes in physical fitness over time can affect your risk of stroke later on. It was already known that physical fitness at a given time point could affect your risk of stroke many years later, and this new research shows the value of getting fitter during middle age if you’re not active already, and not letting your fitness levels drop if you are.

Researchers at the University of Oslo, Norway, tested the fitness levels of 1400 men in their 40s and 50s and tested them again seven years later, then looked at how many had had a stroke 28 years later.  

While most became less fit, around a quarter of the men managed to increase their fitness levels before their seven-year check-up, making a real difference to their health. The men who increased their fitness the most were 56% less likely to have a stroke than those whose fitness had declined the most – regardless of how fit they were to start with.

The benefits remained even when the researchers took account of other risk factors for stroke including blood pressure, weight and smoking, showing the dramatic difference exercise can make to your health.

Meanwhile, many of us don’t manage a 10-minute brisk walk each month

Just as these findings from Norway were presented, Public Health England (PHE) revealed that in the UK we’re becoming less and less active. We’re 20% less active than we were in the 1960s and we walk 15 miles less per year than in the 1990s. 

In fact, 6 million adults in England don’t manage a 10-minute brisk walk each month – that’s one out of every four adults aged 40-60 – and are missing out on the important health benefits. A 10-minute brisk walk each day cuts the risk of early death by 15%, and will help to stave off type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and some cancers.

Now, PHE are encouraging adults to build 10 minutes brisk walk into their day and have developed a mobile phone app called Active 10, to help you achieve it. 

Blood Pressure UK CEO, Katharine Jenner, comments: “Getting active helps to protect you from stroke and other diseases no matter what your age – it’s never too late to start. A 10-minute brisk walk each day is an achievable target even for the busiest among us, and will be a big help towards the national exercise target of 150 minutes per week.” 

Read more

You can find more on the Norwegian study, titled, 7-year change in physical fitness in healthy middle-aged men predicts stroke during 28 years follow-up, via the European Society of Cardiology website. You can also find coverage of the research from the BHF and the Telegraph

Read the PHE report for more on UK activity levels and the benefits of a 10-minute daily brisk walk



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