Walking lowers women's stroke risk, study finds

DALLAS -- Women can lower their stroke risk by lacing up their sneakers and walking, a new study suggests.

Women who said they walked briskly had a 37 percent lower risk of stroke than those who didn't walk. Women who reported walking at least two hours a week at any pace had a 30 percent lower risk, according to a study published online Tuesday in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

While previous studies have shown that physical activity decreases the chances of having a stroke, the new study focused on what kind of exercise might be most beneficial for women.

"This certainly speaks to walking for a certain amount of time and walking briskly as well," said Jacob Sattelmair, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

The research involved about 39,000 female health workers 45 or older. The women were periodically asked about their physical activity. During 12 years of follow-up, 579 had strokes.

Besides walking, the study looked at vigorous activities like running, swimming and biking, but researchers didn't find a link between those vigorous activities and a reduced stroke risk.

The researchers took into account age, aspirin use, smoking and other things that could influence stroke risk.

"I think what's encouraging is that moderate activities are powerfully effective in reducing the risks of stroke," said Dr. Anand Rohatgi, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.