Walking speed can indicate stroke risk

By Tom Nordlie • Published: July 22nd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Body language can say a lot about a person’s mood.

Now it seems that the way elderly people walk might also help identify who’s at risk for ischemic [iss-KEE-mick] stroke.

That’s a condition where a blood vessel in the brain becomes clogged, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death among older Americans.

A study published recently in the journal Stroke showed that older women who walk slowly are more likely to suffer ischemic strokes.

Researchers examined data from more than thirteen-thousand women ages fifty to seventy-nine who participated in a study called the Women’s Health Initiative.

They excluded women with medical conditions that would diminish their ability to walk, such as heart disease or prior stroke.

The participants were asked to walk six meters at their usual pace, and were timed.

They were also tracked for an average of five years afterward. During that time, two-hundred-sixty-four of them suffered ischemic strokes.

When classified by walking speed, women in the slowest third of the group were sixty-nine percent more likely to suffer a stroke than those in the fastest third.

The association between walking speed and stroke was so strong researchers said evaluating walking speed might be a suitable way to estimate stroke risk.

In the meantime, the lesson everyone can take away from the study is to stay active.

The stronger your body, the better your chances of walking away from a whole host of health problems.