Inactivity and Your Risk of Stroke

By: Alere Staff

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in our nation.1 The chance of having a stroke is increased when certain risk factors are present.  There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors. A stroke can be prevented by understanding your personal risk and taking steps to control those risks.2 Controllable risk factors include: physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and atrial fibrillation, among others.  Uncontrollable risk factors include:  age, gender, race and family history, unfortunately there is no way to change this type of factor.

Let’s look at the benefit of physical activity.  Physical inactivity trails only high blood pressure as a major contributor to stroke risk.3 An analysis of the data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study was recently completed. The data suggests that regular physical activity reduces stroke risk by 25% to 30 % as compared with little or no activity.1,3  Physical activity also plays a role in better control of other risk factors such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.1

Exercise is known to decrease obesity and assist in lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol.  The American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines for physical activity.  Adults should get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes (1 hour 15 minutes) per week of vigorous intensity activity per week for the best reduction in stroke risk.1 The guideline also notes that some physical activity is better than none.  Adults who participated in any amount of activity gain some health benefits.   Moderate intensity activities include: brisk walking, ballroom dancing, gardening, water aerobics, biking (less than 10 miles per hour).4  Vigorous intensity activities include: Jogging or running, heavy gardening such as hoeing or digging, swimming laps, jumping rope and aerobic dancing. 

Take steps to reduce your stroke risk by increasing your physical activity today! 

  1. Stroke Association. 2013. About Stroke. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death and leading cause of adult disability web site:
  2. Stroke Association. 2013. Am I at risk for stroke? from Stroke web site:
  3. Bankhead, C. 2013. Inactivity has modest risk of stroke. MedPage Today. Retrieved September 26, 2013 from MedPage Today web site:
  4. CDC. 2013. Measuring physical activity intensity. Retrieved September 26, 2013 from the CDC web site:


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