Press Releases

2000 Releases

Exercise May Reduce Risk of Stroke

For immediate release: June 13, 2000

Boston, MA--Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Harvard School of Public School (HSPH) have found that women who exercise regularly may substantially reduce their risk of stroke. The finding is the latest from the landmark BWH-based Nurses' Health Study, the largest study ever to examine the association between physical activity and stroke in women. The findings are published in the June 14th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA.

"Previous research has demonstrated that increased exercise may substantially reduce a person's risk of heart disease, but the role of exercise in the prevention of stroke has been less well studied and not very conclusive," according to lead study author Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, of HSPH. "Analyzing a large population, we found that the more a woman exercises, the less likely she will suffer a stroke."

Researchers found that by adding 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise to a woman's daily routine, her risk of stroke would be decreased by 20 percent. The same amount of exercise would decrease a woman's risk of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, even more -- by 30 percent.

"Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of stroke in many different ways," added Dr. Hu. "Exercising helps lower blood pressure and increase HDL, or good, cholesterol concentrations."

The research also found that moderate physical activity, including walking, can extend the same benefits as vigorous exercise in reducing the risk of stroke.

"Walking is an accessible, inexpensive, and virtually injury-resistant form of physical activity that confers enormous health benefits," said senior study author JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, chief of Preventive Medicine at BWH and associate professor at HSPH. "We know that a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Now we can add stroke to the list."

Last year, BWH researchers reported that walking and vigorous exercise, such as running, jogging and swimming, were equally effective in reducing the risk of heart attacks in women.

The study's findings lend support to recent federal guidelines on physical activity, such as those from the Centers for Disease Control and the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, which endorse at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (which includes walking) on most, preferably all, days of the week.

The study was based on the analysis of questionnaires from 72,488 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) who did not have diagnosed cardiovascular disease or cancer in 1986. Researchers examined six years of health and activity data from women aged 40-65 years. During the period of study, researchers identified 407 cases of stroke.

Full text of the article may be found at:
http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/283/22/2961.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Director of Communications
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu

Christine Baratta, Brigham and Women's Hospital, (617) 732-5008
Tricia Oliver, Brigham and Women's Hospital, (617) 732-5008
Robert Hutchison, Brigham and Women's Hospital, (617) 732-5008