Walking Can Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Stroke, Heart Attack
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

I can’t say enough about the health benefits of exercise. It strengthens the heart and circulatory system, builds stamina, and improves mood. It’s also an effective means for lowering blood pressure levels, increasing HDL cholesterol, and improving poor blood circulation.

I’m often asked what the best form of exercise is. I say it’s the one you will consistently do! Walking, dancing, cycling, lifting weights—it doesn’t matter. The goal of exercise is simply to get out and get moving.

That said, I have to admit I’m a big fan of walking. It’s simple, doesn’t require special equipment or a gym membership, and it can help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. In a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 4,065 nurses ages 40 to 65, without cardiovascular disease or cancer, completed detailed physical activity questionnaires. The surveys revealed that walking was associated with reduced risk of stroke.

Walking is easy to incorporate in your day. Walk up and down stairs instead of taking elevators. Steadily increase the distance while walking your dog. Instead of parking in the closest space to the store or office entrance, park at the far end of the parking lot. Consider walking short distances for errands instead of driving.

If you’ve been inactive for a while, start slow. Walk 10 minutes every other day for one week. Each week, increase your time by increments of 5 or 10 minutes. Within a month, you’ll be taking 30-minute strolls. Do this every other day, and you’ll have a good workout routine. Five days a week is optimal.

As for speed, you don’t have to maintain a brisk pace. Actual walking speed isn’t as important as we’ve been led to believe. In fact, researchers in the JAMA study I mentioned found that speed didn’t matter; it was the length of time women walked that was significant.

Simple, right? If you agree, lace up those sneakers and get out there. It’s one of the simplest—and most effective—steps you can take (literally) to prevent heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

 For more information on how to prevent heart attack and stroke, visit www.drsinatra.com.

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