Harvard Health Letter

Take a walk, reduce your risk of suffering a stroke

Women who walk every week are less likely to have a stroke than women who don't.

Here's another reason to start walking: recent research shows that women who walk at least three hours a week have a 43% lower stroke risk compared with women who are inactive. Women walkers also have a lower stroke risk than women who do other high-intensity exercise. "Walking is a more consistent, gradual training program, as opposed to high-intensity exercise that can result in sudden increases in blood pressure, which can be dangerous," says Dr. Michael R. Jaff, chair of the Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Walking benefits

A brisk walking pace gets the heart pumping and reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, and the risk of heart disease. It limits the production of bad (LDL) cholesterol and causes the lining of the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and increases blood flow to the heart and brain. Improved blood flow to the brain also improves thinking skills.

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