Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Regular physical activity can decrease the risk of having a stroke, according to a large new study from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among people with diabetes.

According to the National Stroke Association, controllable risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, atherosclerosis, circulation problems, tobacco use and smoking, high cholesterol, alcohol use, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity. Uncontrollable risk factors include age, gender, race, family history, previous stroke or transient ischemic attack, fibromuscular dysplasia, and hole in the heart.

To determine the association between physical activity and incidence of stroke, researchers looked at data from 27,000 black and white participants, age 45 and older, in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Using self-reported physical activity levels, the subjects were designated as inactive (no workouts in a week), moderately active (workouts one to three times a week), or vigorously active (workouts four or more times a week). They were then followed for an average of 5.7 years.

The researchers found that physical inactivity, which was reported by 33% of the respondents, was associated with a 20% increased risk of stroke. Among men, those who exercised four or more times a week had a decreased risk of stroke, while among women, the link between stroke risk and frequency of physical activity was not as clear.

According to senior study author Virginia Howard, PhD, “[These findings] should be emphasized more in routine physician checkups, along with general education on the proven health benefits of regular physical activity on other stroke risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.”

Limitations of the study include that it relied on self-reported exercise data, which may not be accurate, and that the researchers did not have data on the type or duration of the exercises in which the subjects engaged. Future studies should consider capturing more information on physical activity through use of devices such as heart monitors and through further questioning, as well as aim to collect data on aspects of exercise such as frequency and duration, the researchers note.

For more information, read the article “Exercise Can Reduce Stroke Risk” or download the study from the journal Stroke. And to learn more about preventing stroke, click here.


  1. I am a stroke survivor. Although exercise may reduce some strokes, there are many factors that can cause them. Although I was brought up on a low fat, low sugar diet and was very active, and never smoked, this apparently was not enough to overcome my family history of strokes. My grandmother (who had pernicious anemia) had one at age 90 and survived 3 months. My mother had several small TIA’s in her 60’s,but recovered and was able to drive until she was 88 and is now 98. Her brother had the same condition and lived to be 87. I was 57 when I had a lacunar stroke that wiped out my fine motor skills. The only thing my doctor could find wrong was I had undiagnosed diabetes and elevated blood pressure due to extreme stress. I am doing well now, but I am always on my guard for symptoms of a stroke as there are no guarantees of prevention based on lifestyle, diet, or exercise….just a reduction in the risk. The “takeaway” here is everyone should still follow a proper diet, exercise appropriately for their age and condition, and don’t smoke, etc…and lEARN THE SIGNS OF A STROKE to reduce the chance of disabilities and/or death.

    Posted by Mary G |

Post a Comment

Note: All comments are moderated and there may be a delay in the publication of your comment. Please be on-topic and appropriate. Do not disclose personal information. Be respectful of other posters. Only post information that is correct and true to your knowledge. When referencing information that is not based on personal experience, please provide links to your sources. All commenters are considered to be nonmedical professionals unless explicitly stated otherwise. Promotion of your own or someone else's business or competing site is not allowed: Sharing links to sites that are relevant to the topic at hand is permitted, but advertising is not. Once submitted, comments cannot be modified or deleted by their authors. Comments that don't follow the guidelines above may be deleted without warning. Such actions are at the sole discretion of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. Comments are moderated Monday through Friday by the editors of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. The moderators are employees of Madavor Media, LLC., and do not report any conflicts of interest. A privacy policy setting forth our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of certain information relating to you and your use of this Web site can be found here. For more information, please read our Terms and Conditions.

Heart Health
Self-Manage Your Blood Pressure (09/02/14)
Pistachios Offer Protection for People With Diabetes (08/29/14)
Which Butter (or Spread) Is Better? (07/28/14)
High-Salt Diet Doubles Heart Risk in Type 2 Diabetes (07/25/14)

Diabetes Research
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)
Statins May Reduce Risk of Nerve Damage, Other Diabetes Complications (09/18/14)

Diabetes News
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)
New Weekly Type 2 Diabetes Drug Approved (09/26/14)

Diane Fennell
Take Part in the Big Blue Test! (10/15/14)
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)



Disclaimer of Medical Advice: You understand that the blog posts and comments to such blog posts (whether posted by us, our agents or bloggers, or by users) do not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs. The opinions and other information contained in the blog posts and comments do not reflect the opinions or positions of the Site Proprietor.

Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring — Part 3: Smart Monitoring

10 Keys to Long-Term Weight Loss

Take Your Best Shot: Stay Up to Date on Vaccines

Complete table of contents
Subscription questions