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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.

In addition, walking lowers your diabetes risk, helps strengthen your bones to prevent osteoporosis, and reduces your depression risk by increasing the body’s “feel good” chemicals, called endorphins.

Walking Path Strategies

Photo: Thinkstock / Walking Paths app: Courtesy of American Heart Association

Map out your walking route in advance. Use a computer or even your car odometer to clock the distance of your walk. Use the American Heart Association’s Walking Path How-To Guide, which you can download from its website at

Getting started

Check with your doctor to make sure a walking regimen is right for you. Dress appropriately by wearing comfortable cotton clothing or investing in high-tech stretchy fabrics, such as blends of nylon spandex and polyester that wick away moisture and have a compression effect that supports your muscles and stimulates blood flow. In cooler weather, add layers, especially a hat and gloves.

Make sure your walking shoes have a padded tongue; light, breathable uppers; moisture-resistant insoles; and a sole that’s two times thicker at the heel than it is at the toe, to cut down on tendon strains.

Off you go

Don’t focus on distance; aim for 150 minutes of brisk walking per week. “Walk for 10 to 15 minutes per day, every day, then move up to 30 minutes per day,” says Dr. Jaff. Divide your walk into three parts: a slower pace to warm up, a faster pace to get your heart pumping, then a slower pace to cool down. How fast for the middle portion? “Quick enough to make you feel like you are walking for exercise, rather than your usual pace,” he says.

Try to walk nearly every day. To stay motivated, walk with a friend; treat the walk like a “must” on your to-do list; listen to music or audio books, so you’ll have something to look forward to; and track your daily success, then challenge yourself to improve it each week.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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