Stroke severity could be lessened with regular exercise

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Regular exercise helps prevent several conditions, but new research shows it could fight against the No. 2 killer—stroke.

A study, published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, was conducted at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Findings show that exercise is responsible for creating collaterals, a network of blood vessels that carry blood to the heart when an artery is blocked. Because collaterals decline with age, strokes are more likely to occur in elderly patients. Not all strokes are deadly, but they can result in a major disability, including memory, speech and visions loss.

“You have collaterals in your heart, in your brain and in the muscle and skin of your legs and arms,” said James Faber, PhD, the study’s lead author and a professor in the department of cell biology and physiology at UNC, in a statement. “We’re quite interested in these collaterals in terms of stroke and heart disease.”

In his study, Faber examined collaterals in two groups of mice, one that was sedentary and another that exercised regularly. Results showed that sedentary mice experienced large, severe strokes and lost a significant portion of brain tissue and collaterals, while the active mice fared much better and lost less brain tissue and collaterals.

“Besides the many reported benefits of regular physical activity, it is very possible that regular, brisk walking, jogging or running or any kind of aerobic exercise has an additional effect of keeping blood vessels young and abundant in the brain, heart and lower legs,” Faber said.

Though the results are encouraging, Faber said more research needs to be done to determine if the results in mice will translate to humans.