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Walk more to cut heart attack and stroke risk

Updated: Dec 20, 2013 09:53 AM
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FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Walking more is a simple way for people at high risk for type 2 diabetes to greatly reduce their risk of heart disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 9,300 adults with pre-diabetes in 40 countries. People with pre-diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

All of the study participants were enrolled in programs meant to increase their physical activity, shed excess pounds and cut fatty foods from their diets. The participants' average number of steps taken per day was recorded at the start of the programs and again 12 months later.

Amounts of walking at the start of the programs and changes in amounts of walking over 12 months affected the participants' risk of heart disease, according to the study, which was published Dec. 19 in the journal The Lancet.

For every 2,000 steps more per day a person took at the start of the study, they had a 10 percent lower risk for heart disease in subsequent years. And for every 2,000 steps per day increase during the study period, the risk of heart disease fell an additional 8 percent, the researchers found.

For example, if Person A took 4,000 steps per day at the start of the study and did not change that amount over the next year, and Person B took 6,000 steps per day at the start of the study and increased to 8,000 steps per day during the next year, Person B would have an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease than Person A by the end of the study, the researchers said.

"Our results provide novel evidence that changing physical-activity levels through simply increasing the number of steps taken can substantially reduce the risk of [heart] disease," study leader Dr. Thomas Yates, of the University of Leicester, in England, said in a journal news release.

"Importantly, these benefits are seen regardless of body weight or the starting level of activity," Yates said. "These novel findings provide the strongest evidence yet for the importance of physical activity in high-risk populations and will inform diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention programs worldwide."

Pre-diabetes affects nearly 8 percent of adults (344 million) worldwide, and the number is projected to rise to 8.4 percent (472 million) by 2030.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about pre-diabetes.

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