Middle-aged women who perform moderate exercise just twice a week are at a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, reveals a new study.

Thousands of people suffer from heart disease in the United States and across the world. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that about 600,000 people die of heart disease each year in the country. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death among American men and women.

Doctors agree that a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and physical activity can reduce a person's risk of getting heart disease.

However, Miranda Armstrong, physical activity epidemiologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K., who is also the lead author of the study, suggests that women do not have to do strenuous exercise daily to reduce the risk of blood clots, heart disease and stroke.

"To prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, women don't need to do very frequent activity as this seems to provide little additional benefit above that of moderately frequent activity," advised Armstrong.

The study included about 1.1 million participants, all women, from the U.K. who took part in the Million Women study that was conducted between 1996 and 2001. The average age of all the participants was 56 years when they joined the study. None of the participants had any history of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes or blood clots.

The researchers took note of the physical activity level of all the participants before the commencement of the study and after three years, and examined the hospital admission and death rates among the participants. They also conducted a follow-up study on an average of nine years.

Women who were involved in physical activity that caused sweating or increased heartbeat two to three times per second, undertaken just two to three times a week, were 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, stroke or blood clots.

The study also suggested that women do not have to visit the gym for exercise since gardening, walking and cycling are also considered physical activities that reduce the risk of heart disease.

The study was published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation.

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