Exercise Works as Stroke Preventive

Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) during midlife is strongly associated with a reduced risk of stroke later, according to the results of a recent study.

Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) during midlife is strongly associated with a reduced risk of stroke later, according to the results of a recent study. Ambarish Pandey, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX, and colleagues conducted the study, which was published in the journal Stroke on June 9, 2016.

The researchers used data from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study (CCLS) along with claims data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in order to investigate the hypothesis that better CRF in midlife would be associated with lower risk of stroke independent of other risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation.

The study produced two important findings. The first, the researchers say, is that “in a cohort with a low baseline prevalence of traditional risk factors, there was a dose-dependent inverse association between midlife CRF and risk of stroke later in life.” The second finding was that the reduced risk of stroke was independent of other risk factors.

“Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of increased exercise and physical activity in midlife as potential strategy for stroke risk reduction in older age,” say the researchers. Given that past research has been inconsistent in showing a link between physical activity and reduced stroke risk, this study which considers CRF, rather than physical activity, is important.

It is not clear how better midlife fitness protects against stroke later. The researchers say their findings, “suggest that the inverse association between CRF in midlife and risk of stroke at a later age may be related to a more direct effect of fitness on other mediators of stroke such as carotid atheroma burden, arterial stiffness, neuroprotective factors, and endothelial dysfunction.”

The researchers conclude by suggesting that additional studies should be performed in order to determine “whether improvement in CRF among sedentary adults may reduce the risk of stroke in older age above and beyond risk factor modification.”