Exercise May Reduce Stroke Severity


In a study published in the online issue of Neurology (September 19, 2018), researchers have shown that people who exercise have lower stroke severity if and when they do experience stroke. In this retrospective study authors, authors survey 925 individuals who had experienced stroke; mean age was 73.1 and 45% of patients included were women. Patients who had experienced a first stroke were identified through use of 2 Swedish stroke registries with a cross-sectional design. Stroke severity was measured by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) and physical activity was measured with the Saltin-Grimby's 4-level Physical Activity Level Scale. Just over half (52%) of those surveyed reported being physically inactive before their stroke.

Patients reporting that they participated in light or moderate activity before their stroke were twice as likely to have had a mild stroke (NIHSS 0- 5) compared with patients who reported that they were physically inactive (Table). The predictive model also included younger age as a predictor of stroke severity (odds ratio = 2.02 for physical activity and odds ratio = 0.97 for age). The explanatory value was limited at 6.8%. Both light activity (eg, walking ≥ 4 hours/week) and moderate activity (eg, swimming, brisk walking, or running 2-3 h/week) appeared beneficial. Physical inactivity was associated with increased stroke severity.

Other information collected on the survey included age, presence of diabetes, duration of hospitalization, hypertension and hypertension treatment (statins), myocardial infarction, new stroke during hospital stay, sex, and smoking status. Logistic regression was used to predict stroke severity, and negative binomial regression was used to compare the level of PA and stroke severity.

“Stroke is a major cause of serious disability, so finding ways to prevent stroke or reduce the disability caused by stroke are important,” said study author Katharina S. Sunnerhagen, MD, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. “While exercise benefits health in many ways, our research suggests that even simply getting in a small amount of physical activity each week may have a big impact later by possibly reducing the severity of a stroke.”

 “There is a growing body of evidence that physical activity may have a protective effect on the brain and our research adds to that evidence,” said Sunnerhagen. “Further research is needed to better understand just how physical activity influences the severity of a stroke. Finally, physical inactivity should be monitored as a possible risk factor for severe stroke.”


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