One of my best friends recently passed away from stroke complications. So when news recently broke that 1990s teen heartthrob Luke Perry died of the same condition at only 52 years old, I knew that it was time to sound off on the topic.
I find that many of my patients are so laser-focused on keeping their minds intact, they forget that cardiovascular health is the real lynchpin of longevity.
And since I’ve always been a big proponent of maintaining your health, rather than fixing things once they break, this new study on the strong influence of cardiorespiratory fitness on men’s stroke risk really spoke to me.
(Just as an FYI, cardiorespiratory fitness determines how efficiently your heart, lungs, and blood vessels can supply oxygen to fuel your muscles during exercise.)
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself go
This research followed more than 2,000 middle aged men for over two decades.
Participants were enrolled in the early 1970s, when they were between the ages of 40 and 60. At the start of the study, and again seven years later, they all received fitness assessments — an exercise test, along with heart rate and blood pressure measurements.
Researchers then followed up with the participants over a span of 24 years. They looked for trends using data from medical records and national registries. And what they found perfectly illustrates why I hammer home the importance of exercise so often in my e-letters.
Specifically, just shy of 40 percent of the men maintained their baseline and stayed fit throughout the study. The same percentage maintained their baseline and stayed unfit throughout the study. An additional 11 percent became more fit, while another 11 percent became less fit.
And wouldn’t you know? Of the roughly 200 men who had strokes in that time, the very highest risk was among the men who let their fitness slip.
They were almost twice as likely to suffer a stroke. And at a younger age, too — with the first one striking at age 73 in this group, versus age 77 in the group that became more fit over the course of the study.
You’re never too old to slash your risk
Overall, the results showed that men with higher fitness levels in their youth that declined with age faced twice the stroke risk. Meanwhile, men who became healthier over the study cut their stroke risk in half.
Clearly, we’re not talking about small numbers here. Being fit is going to decrease your risk for any form of cardiovascular disease — that’s a no brainer. But even I’m impressed with how large of a reduction this research team found…
From my reading, the definition of “fit” wasn’t specific. But if you’re going by the official Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, it would mean getting at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity weekly. And muscle-strengthening twice weekly.
I exercise a lot — but even for me, this recommendation isn’t always possible to swing. Which is why I always tell patients: Try your best to do what you can.
One minute is better than no minutes. You have to start somewhere.
But there’s another important takeaway here: Fitness knows no age.
You’re truly never too old to start exercising. And according to this study, at least, the protection lasts anywhere from two to 25 years.
That’s better than anything you’ll find at the bottom of a pill bottle. So what are you waiting for? Go on and get moving!
P.S. Exercise is a huge part of any heart health regimen. But know that there’s a wealth of additional inexpensive, all-natural tools at your disposal. Which is precisely why I developed the Ultimate Heart-Protection Protocol — my all-natural plan to prevent and reverse America’s biggest killers: High blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Click here to learn more about this online learning tool, or to sign up today.
“Fitness affects stroke risk.” Reuters, 12/31/18. (reuters.com/article/us-health-stroke-prevention/fitness-affects-stroke-risk-idUSKCN1OU0RP)