By Vanessa Chalmers Health Reporter For Mailonline
Published: 16:37 BST, 3 May 2019 | Updated: 16:37 BST, 3 May 2019
Training for your first marathon can be just as good for your blood pressure as drugs by 'reversing' the ageing of blood vessels, a study found.
The reduction of four years of age-related artery stiffness could reduce the risk of stroke by up to 10 per cent over a person's lifetime, scientists said.
They tracked people who ran 13 miles a week for six months and found those who were older or slower gained the greatest health boost.
As we age, blood vessels stiffen which increases the risk of stroke and heart disease even in healthy people.
But compared to their peers, lifelong athletes have biologically younger blood vessels.
Training for a first-time marathon is as good for your blood pressure as drugs as scientists find six months of prep can 'reverse' the ageing of blood vessels
University College London researchers investigated whether training for the London Marathon could modify aortic stiffness even in novice runners.
British Heart Foundation expert, Dr Anish Bhuva said: 'Novice runners who trained for six months and completed their first marathon had a four-year reduction in arterial age and a 4mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure.
'This is comparable to the effect of medication and, if maintained, translates to approximately 10 per cent lower risk of stroke over a lifetime.
'You don't have to be an elite athlete to gain the benefits from marathon running. In fact the benefits appeared greatest in those who were older and slower.
'By completing training, and getting to the finish line, it is possible to rejuvenate the cardiovascular system of first-time marathon runners.'
The study involved 139 healthy first-time marathon runners aged 21 to 69 years who were advised to follow a first-time finisher training programme.
The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems like:arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances (atherosclerosis) high blood pressure high cholesterol levels
An unhealthy diet can increase your chances of having a stroke because it may lead to an increase in your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
A low-fat, high-fibre diet is usually recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit