Exercise is the activity that just keeps on giving. A new study suggests that older adults who regularly break a sweat might be less likely to have a “silent stroke” than non-exercisers.
Strokes can cause brain damage by cutting off blood flow to the brain. But unlike major strokes, recognizable by symptoms such as weakness on one side of the body and trouble speaking, so-called silent strokes by definition go unnoticed. Symptoms can include subtle memory and mobility problems, as well as an increased risk for future strokes, according to the American Academy of Neurology.
Silent strokes are also different from mini-strokes, which are noticeable but last only for minutes or hours.
In a new study by Columbia University and the University of Miami, researchers asked 1,238 people who hadn’t experienced a stroke about their level of physical activity. The response: 43% weren’t regularly active, 36% did light exercise such as walking or golfing and 21% engaged in moderate to heavy exercise such as jogging, biking and swimming.
When researchers looked at MRI scans performed several years later for signs of silent stroke — when the participants were on average 70 years old — they found that the moderate-to-heavy exercisers were 40% less likely to have suffered a silent stroke than the non-exercisers. The results were published online Wednesday in the journal Neurology.