By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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The more fit you are in midlife, the less likely you are to have a stroke after age 65, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

“We all hear that exercise is good for you, but many people still don’t do it,” said the study’s lead investigator Ambarish Pandey, M.D., a cardiology fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Our hope is that this objective data on preventing a fatal disease such as stroke will help motivate people to get moving and get fit.”

In a prospective observational study of 19,815 adults ages 45 to 50, researchers measured participants’ heart and lung exercise capacity — cardiorespiratory fitness — and categorized them as having a high, middle or low fitness level.

The study revealed that those with the highest level of fitness had a 37 percent lower risk of stroke after age 65 compared to those with the lowest level of fitness. This inverse relationship between fitness and stroke risks existed even after researchers considered high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation.

“These findings support the unique and independent role of exercise in the prevention of stroke,” said Jarett Berry, M.D., the study’s senior author and an associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern.

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious long-term disability.

The AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. For better overall cardiovascular health, exercise 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

Researchers used data from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, collected from 1999 to 2009, that measured exercise tolerance with a standardized treadmill test for participants 45 to 50.