ISLAMABAD: Being fit in your 40s could cut your risk of a stroke in your 60s.

Research has shown that men and women who are very fit in their mid to late 40s are a third less likely to suffer a stroke aged 65-plus than their couch-potato friends and colleagues.

The result is important because stroke is Britain’s fourth-biggest killer, claiming twice as many women’s lives as breast cancer and killing more men than prostate and testicular cancer combined.

It is also the UK’s main cause of severe disability and costs the NHS and wider economy almost £9billion a year.

Doing exercise in your 40s also benefits those with long-term illnesses such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation, which causes a fast heart rate, researchers said.

The US researchers analysed data on almost 20,000 men and women who had been put through a fitness test on a treadmill while aged between 45 and 50 and had their health tracked until they were at least 65.

MRI of a brain hemorrhage, one of the possible causes for a stroke
The fittest 40 per cent in middle-age were 37 per cent less likely than the least fit to suffer a stroke in old age.

The result held even when factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure were taken into account.

Writing in the journal Stroke, they said that exercise may boost blood flow to the brain, staving off the natural decay of brain tissue.

Study author, Ambarish Pandey, of the University of Texas, said: ‘We all hear that exercise is good for you but many people still don’t do it.

‘Our hope is that this objective data on preventing fatal disease such as stroke will help motivate people to get moving and get fit.’

The NHS recommends that adults spend five days a week doing moderate exercise, such as cycling or brisk walking.

This should be strenuous enough to raise heart rate and temperature but not so tiring that someone can’t talk.

Men and women aged between 19 and 64 should also fit in at least two sessions of weights, yoga or other strengthening exercises a week.

However, most adults in England are failing to meet exercise guidelines.

One study found that one in 12 hadn’t walked continuously for five minutes in at least a month, despite not having mobility problems.