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Physical activity for preventing strokes

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 17 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:350

Better designed studies suggest that it is effective

  1. G David Batty, lecturer in epidemiology (,
  2. I-Min Lee, associate professor of medicine
  1. Epidemiology Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 900 Commonwealth Avenue East, Boston, MA 02215, USA
  • Accepted 28 February 2002

Stroke remains the most common life threatening neurological disorder, accounting for about 10% of all deaths worldwide.1 This is despite a decline in mortality rates due to stroke in most industrialised countries since the early 1900s owing to a decrease in case fatality or incidence, or both. Stroke is a leading cause of disability, and its treatment entails prolonged hospitalisation, with a commensurate financial toll. Preventing strokes is therefore of public health and economic importance.

Although genes may play a part in predicting risk of stroke, the observation that individuals who migrate have the same rates of stroke as the people in their host country implicates environmental risk factors.2 Epidemiological studies have identified modifiable risk factors for stroke such as raised blood pressure, obesity, glucose intolerance, smoking, and alcohol abuse. Ischaemic stroke (the commonest type) and ischaemic heart disease share similar pathophysiological traits. Clear evidence links physical activity to ischaemic heart disease.3 A sedentary lifestyle is therefore a possible risk …

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