Exercise associated with lower stroke mortality.




Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc

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Consumer Data: Stroke
Professional Data: Stroke


The term "stroke" or "paralytic stroke" is commonly used to describe a sudden problem with the brain that is usually related to its blood supply. A "stroke," therefore, can be due to ischemia (decreased blood supply), infarction (interrupted blood supply), or hemorrhage (severe bleeding), and usually means that there is some kind of permanent problem with the nervous system.1 All three of these causes (ischemia, infarction, or hemorrhage) would be due to cerebrovascular disease (disease related to the blood supply to the brain).

Cerebrovascular disease can be described as any disease affecting the blood vessels, blood flow, or quality of the blood in the brain.2 Other terms for this disease include apoplexy or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). In the United States, the term stroke is most often used. Most strokes are caused by ischemia and infarction because of diseases of the large, small, and medium-sized arteries in the brain. Cerebral embolism (blood clot in the brain) causes strokes about 20 percent of the time. Hemorrhage into the brain tissue account for about 15 percent of all strokes.

While many risk factors have been identified that increase a person's risk for stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), is by far, the greatest. Hypertension has been identified as a factor in 70 percent of all strokes. A famous heart study, the Framingham study, reported that there is a direct link between increased blood pressure and stroke risk.3

In a recent study, researchers examined the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and stoke resulting in death. Over 16,000 men were followed for an average of ten years. These participants' ages ranged from 40 to 87 years. All of these men completed a medical assessment that integrated personal health habits and an exercise treadmill test. Over this 10-year period, 32 strokes occurred that ended in death. The results showed an inverse correlation between cardiorespiratory fitness and stroke mortality. After modifications for smoking, alcohol intake, and several health problems, this correlation continued. Highly fit men had a 68% lower risk of stroke mortality and moderately fit men had a 63% lower risk when compared to low-fit men. In conclusion the authors stated that high and moderate levels of exercise are associated with a decrease in risk of stroke death.4


1. Welty TE. Cerebrovascular Disease, In: Koda-Kimble MA, Young LY, eds. Applied Therapeutics. 5th ed. Vancouver, WA: 1992;14:1-7.
2. Bradberry JC. Stroke, In: DiPiro et al eds, Pharmacotherapy, A Pathophysiologic Approach. 4th ed. Stamford, CT: Appleton & Lange; 1999:327-347.
3. Bronner LL, Kanter DS, Manson JE. Primary Prevention of Stroke. N Engl J Med. 1995;333:1392-1400.
4. Lee CD, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness and stroke mortality in men. Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc. Apr 2002;34(4):592-595.