WASHINGTON: A University of Gothenburg study found that four hours of light exercise per week were linked to both higher survival rates and milder intracerebral haemorrhage symptoms.
Intracerebral haemorrhage is the most serious type of stroke with few treatment options. About one in ten cases of stroke is an intracerebral haemorrhage, a condition caused by bleeding within the brain tissue, with a high risk of death and disability.
Researchers from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg demonstrate in the current register-based study a clear association, though not causality, between physical activity and protection against severe symptoms of intracerebral haemorrhage.
The findings indicate that individuals who engage in light physical activity, such as walking or biking, for at least four hours each week have a 3.5-fold increased risk of experiencing mild intracerebral haemorrhage symptoms and a more than the 2-fold increased chance of surviving five years compared to individuals who engage in less activity.
Paralysis (often in one side of the body), slurred speech, visual loss, vertigo with balance issues, a severe headache, and loss of consciousness are some of the common stroke symptoms.
Adam Viktorisson, a PhD candidate in Clinical Neuroscience at Sahlgrenska Academy and a medical intern at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, is the study's first author and it was published in the journal Neurology.
This study is the first to look at the connection between exercise, acute stroke symptoms, and death following intracerebral haemorrhage. The findings demonstrate that light exercise, such as walking or cycling for at least 35 minutes each day, significantly lowers the risk of severe symptoms and demise following intracerebral haemorrhage.
The study includes all patients treated for intracerebral haemorrhage at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in between 2014 and 2019. A total of 763 people with intracerebral haemorrhage and a comparison group of 4 425 people with ischemic stroke (cerebral infarction) were included.
The average age was 73 years and 50 per cent were women. In the study, over half were inactive before their intracerebral haemorrhage, 1 in 3 performed light physical activity, and less than 1 in 20 exercised regularly. - Physical activity is not synonymous with exercise.
Exercising means structured and repetitive physical activities done to strengthen muscles or improve fitness. Physical activity can be walking to work or going to the store. It is remarkable that even light physical activity seems to make a big difference.
However, the study is based on an elderly population, for whom even light physical activities may be straining, Adam Viktorisson said.
The researchers have combined information from several Swedish registers: The local stroke register at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital (Vaststroke), the national stroke register (Riksstroke), the Statistics Sweden Register, the Swedish National Patient Register and the Cause of Death Register.
The follow-up of mortality continued until October 2021, up to 7 years. The probability of surviving 5 years was 73 per cent among those who were physically active before the intracerebral haemorrhage and only 33 per cent among those who were inactive.
Of particular note is that those who were physically active but suffered from severe co-morbidity had higher survival rates, compared to those who were inactive but otherwise healthy.
It is hoped that this study would motivate people to engage in more physical activity. According to the final author, Professor Katharina Stibrant Sunnerhagen, this would improve their quality of life, lower the number of patients with severe injuries, and lessen the strain on the healthcare system.