Every year, almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. The blood vessels in and around the brain become clogged or burst, and brain cells begin to die. Forty percent of stroke survivors have a second stroke within five years. Doctors say most recurrent strokes can be avoided and the key to prevention may be very simple.

Charles “Nick” Sparks loves spending time out and about with his wife, Liz. But just last year, this 74-year-old had trouble walking. Doctors say he got a check-up just in time.

“All of the stroke doctors had difficulty understanding why I had not had a stroke," said Sparks.

The arteries in Spark’s legs and leading up to his brain were dangerously narrowing. Doctors performed angioplasty to clear the clogged arteries.

Doctor Fadi Nahab is the stroke medical director and a neurologist at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown. He says one critical factor is being overlooked.

“Exercise is the neglected prescription,” explained Dr. Nahab.

Dr. Nahab was the lead investigator at Emory for the Sammpris trial. It studied the recovery of patients who had mini-strokes and found those who were physically inactive were six times as likely to have another stroke. Dr. Nahab tells patients to walk working up to 150 minutes every week of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise such as jogging or running.

“If you were talking to somebody, you wouldn’t be able to say a full sentence without taking a breath.” Dr. Nahab continued.

The exercise can be broken up into smaller sessions several times a day. Nick’s exercising daily now for the first time in his life.

“As I begin to do those little things on the side, they are just as beneficial as going to the gym every day," said Sparks.

And now those little things are this doctor’s orders.

Dr. Nahab says regular exercise along with dietary changes and prescribed medication is making all the difference.