Move Toward a Lower Stroke Risk

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Even Minimal Movement Reduces Stroke Risk, Study Finds

Need more motivation to increase your steps, dust off your dumbbells, or spend less time in your favorite chair? Add brain health to your list. Including even just a small amount of activity can lower your risk of stroke, a new study finds.

A recent meta-analysis of 15 studies that include over 750,000 people reveals that even minimal activity – regardless of intensity – can decrease your risk of stroke (Source: BMJ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry). 

A Closer Look at the Study

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People of any age or gender who include what's called “leisure-time physical activity” (LTPA) reduce their risk for stroke by anywhere from approximately 10 to 30 percent, compared to sedentary individuals who include none. While your risk of stroke lowers as your activity increases, even a minimal amount of LPTA makes a difference, the study concluded.

LPTA refers to any kind of activity versus activities typically categorized as exercise. LPTA includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Cleaning
  • Shopping
  • Taking the stairs
  • Yard Work
  • Strength training
  • Yoga or pilates

The intensity of activity does not appear to have as much of an impact either, researchers noted. For example, activity at the highest level of intensity made just a slight difference when compared to no activity at all. In other words? Don’t assume getting more movement means full-throttle exercise. Move more – and in ways you are able and enjoy.

“According to our results, all levels of LTPA can be beneficial for stroke prevention, including levels currently regarded as low or insufficient,” the study concludes. “People should be encouraged to be physically active even at the lowest levels.”

What Happens During a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when either a clot forms in an artery or vein leading to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or an artery rupture (called a hemorrhagic stroke). Both occurrences block blood flow to the brain, where cells are unable to acquire the oxygen and vital nutrients needed. The deprived brain cells quickly become damaged or die.

Stroke can be fatal, and a recent Rutgers analysis points to the likelihood of an increase in stroke-related deaths for aging millennials. Stroke is also a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the U.S. The majority of stroke survivors are currently living with a disability.

Who Should Worry About Stroke?

Man with caneIn the U.S., nearly 800,000 people have a stroke each year. To give perspective, this means that a person suffers from stroke about every 40 seconds.

While stroke is often associated with older adults, a person can have a stroke at any age. In fact, nearly 25 percent of stroke cases occur in people under age 65. After age 55, your risk of stroke doubles each decade (Source: American Stroke Association).

Signs of Stroke

Strokes can be fatal or debilitating, but there are obvious signs of stroke that can alert others to seek immediate medical attention for the victim. The faster a stroke victim is treated, the better their chances for recovery.

These signs can be remembered by the acronym BE FAST.

B balance is off

E – blurry eyesight.

F face drooping (often on one side)

A arm weakness

S – difficulty with speech (slowed or slurring)

T time to call 9-1-1!!

During stroke, minutes matter. When in doubt, always call 9-1-1.


“With advanced treatment options like at Munson's Witham Family Comprehensive Stroke Center, good outcomes are possible with timely diagnosis,” says Munson Neurovascular Neurosurgeon Gary Rajah, MD, Surgical Director at the center.

The experts at Northern Michigan’s only comprehensive stroke center at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City can treat every stroke case (even the most complicated) with the help of 3-D biplane imaging, which pinpoint the location of blockages and assist our neurosurgeons in real-time.

More Ways to Prevent Stroke

Man speaking with physicianEven adding just a small amount of activity to your day or week can help mitigate your chance of stroke. Other preventive measures include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Work with your doctor to control any medical conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes)
  • Get treatment for heart conditions

"More important than treatment is prevention, and healthy lifestyles are just one of many ways we can keep Northern Michigan thriving,” Dr. Rajah says.