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Vigorous exercise prevents “silent strokes” in older adults

June 10th, 2011

Just noticed a press release about a study on exercise and brains in older people, reaffirming the well-established idea that there are benefits to more vigorous exercise that you can’t get from mild exercise:

Older people who regularly exercise at a moderate to intense level may be less likely to develop the small brain lesions, sometimes referred to as “silent strokes,” that are the first sign of cerebrovascular disease…”These ‘silent strokes’ are more significant than the name implies, because they have been associated with an increased risk of falls and impaired mobility, memory problems and even dementia, as well as stroke,” said study author Joshua Z. Willey, MD, MS, of Columbia University…

The study involved 1,238 people who had never had a stroke. Participants completed a questionnaire about how often and how intensely they exercised at the beginning of the study and then had MRI scans of their brains an average of six years later, when they were an average of 70 years old.

You can read the press release for more details, but the basic gist is: these lesions are not uncommon (16 percent of participants had them), and those who did moderate to intense exercise were 40 percent less likely to have them than those who did light exercise or no exercise, while controlling for other risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking. Just another data point to bear in mind!

  1. RH
    June 11th, 2011 at 08:22 | #1

    An earlier study by the same author brings more happy news: The energy expenditure doesn’t matter! http://www.neurology.org/content/73/21/1774.abstract

    (P.s I fully believe the results, though as it goes with every study of this type, the sceptical part of my brain keeps firing “It may be the other way around. If you’re able to do vigorous exercise at 70, you’re probably very healthy and therefore less to suffer a stroke!” Well, there, I said it.)

  2. June 30th, 2011 at 00:36 | #2

    Good stuff.
    I am fortunate enough to still be racing Ironman events with my youngest son, Nigel (38). At a recent half, when his friend realized that I was doing the event too, said “boy, I wish my Dad was doing this.” My answer was, “he can, and so can your Mom!”
    Thanks for the article, which I duly tweeted.
    -k (Old Dog)

  1. February 28th, 2012 at 15:21 | #1
  2. June 12th, 2012 at 11:01 | #2