The ]]>American Heart Association]]> states that strokes are the third leading cause of death among women, with the number of deaths from a stroke twice as high as those from breast cancer. A stroke occurs from a blocked blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). The blocked or burst blood vessel prevents the blood flow from reaching that part of the brain. Without enough blood, the brain cells do not get the oxygen they need, causing those cells to die. This brain cell death causes the patient to lose essential brain functions.
Women who survive a stroke can have serious complications. The ]]>National Institutes of Health (NIH)]]> notes that some of the complications of a stroke include aspiration (breathing in food), problems speaking, muscle spasticity, malnutrition, loss of movement and sensation, and permanent loss of brain functions. Examples of cognitive problems after a stroke include problems with reading and writing, changes in alertness, and confusion and memory loss. Stroke survivors may also have problems with coordination and balance.
A new study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women can reduce their risk of a stroke by walking. ]]>Reuters Health]]> reports that women had a lower risk of a stroke when they walked two or more hours a week. The study used data from the Women's Health Study, which had 39,000 healthy women ages 45 and older participate. At the 12 year follow-up, 579 of the women have had a stroke. Of these 579 strokes, 473 of them were ischemic strokes, 102 were hemorrhagic strokes, and the other four strokes were undetermined.
The amount of walking and the pace of the walking both plays a role in the stroke risk reduction. Reuters Health reports that walking two hours or more each week reduced the stroke risk by 30 percent, and walking at a rate of three miles per hour or more reduce the stroke risk by 37 percent.