Walking extra steps could cut risk of heart attack and stroke by 14%

From expensive gym memberships to early mornings filled with running, exercising doesn’t always feel attainable. However, your cardiovascular system doesn’t only benefit when your T-shirt is soaked in sweat and your lungs feel out of breath. In fact, new research suggests that walking extra steps daily could be enough to bust your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Once you’re retired, hobbies and relaxing time replace the everyday work chaos.

However, you should still remain physically active to protect your heart and good health.

While most types of exercise might not feel doable on a day-to-day basis, walking could bridge the gap between a sedentary lifestyle and physical activity.

What’s more, people over 70, who walk just an extra 500 steps a day, could lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 14 percent, according to a new study.

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According to the researchers, this step amount, which is the equivalent of roughly a quarter of a mile, could be an “attainable” goal for those in older age.

Adults who took around 4,500 steps per day had a 77 percent lower risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, compared to those who took less than 2,000 steps per day.

Only about 3.5 percent of the participants who took around 4,500 steps daily were struck with a cardiovascular problem, compared to 11.5 percent of those who took less than 2,000 a day.

Lead researcher Dr Erin Dooley said: “Steps are an easy way to measure physical activity, and more daily steps were associated with a lower risk of having a cardiovascular disease-related event in older adults.

“However, most studies have focused on early-to-midlife adults with daily goals of 10,000 or more steps, which may not be attainable for older individuals.”

The participants were part of a larger study group of more than 15,700 adults initially recruited for the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.

Analysing information from 452 volunteers with an average age of 78, who used an accelerometer device similar to a pedometer, that measured their daily steps, the research team evaluated health data for any potential association between step counts and cardiovascular disease.

The devices were worn for three or more days, for 10 or more hours daily, and the average step count was about 3,500 steps per day.

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Over the 3.5-year follow-up period, around 7.5 percent of the participants experienced a cardiovascular disease event, such as coronary heart disease, stroke or heart failure.

The findings suggested that every additional 500 steps taken per day were incrementally associated with a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Dooley said: “It’s important to maintain physical activity as we age, however, daily step goals should also be attainable.

“We were surprised to find that every additional quarter of a mile, or 500 steps, of walking had such a strong benefit for heart health.

“While we do not want to diminish the importance of higher intensity physical activity, encouraging small increases in the number of daily steps also has significant cardiovascular benefits.

“If you are an older adult over the age of 70, start with trying to get 500 more steps per day.”

The team added that further research is currently needed to determine if meeting a higher daily count of steps prevents or delays cardiovascular disease, or if lower step counts may be an indicator of underlying disease.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions in Boston, Massachusetts.

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