Regular exercise may reduce risk of brain haemorrhage

Regular Physical Activity Linked to Reduced Bleeding Volume in Intracerebral Hemorrhage

A recent study conducted at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg found that individuals who engage in regular physical activity have smaller intracerebral hemorrhages compared to those who are inactive. The study analyzed data from 686 patients treated for intracerebral hemorrhage at the hospital between 2014 and 2019.

Regular physical activity was defined as participating in at least four hours of light physical activities per week, including walking, cycling, swimming, gardening, or dancing. Adam Viktorisson, a Ph.D. student in clinical neuroscience at Sahlgrenska Academy, discovered that regular physical activity can reduce bleeding volume by 50% in individuals with intracerebral hemorrhage. This finding, which had not been previously demonstrated in humans, supports earlier observations from animal studies.

Intracerebral hemorrhage is a severe type of stroke caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. Patients suspected of intracerebral hemorrhage typically undergo a brain CT scan upon hospital arrival, and neurosurgery may be necessary in severe cases. However, most cases are managed through non-surgical methods and medication. The risk of severe consequences and fatal outcomes increases with the extent of bleeding.

The study revealed that regular physical activity was associated with reduced bleeding volume in both deep and surface regions of the brain, regardless of their specific locations. This opens up avenues for further research on the relationship between physical activity and intracerebral hemorrhages. The study was overseen by Katharina Stibrant Sunnerhagen, a professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Gothenburg.

The researchers used brain imaging to measure the volume of the hematoma, which represents the amount of blood leaked into the brain. They also assessed the stroke severity using the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) and the modified Rankin Scale (mRS). The findings showed that physically active patients before their stroke had smaller hematoma volumes compared to inactive patients. Physically active patients were also more likely to have a mild stroke and to survive for 90 days.

Furthermore, the study indicated that the relationship between physical activity and stroke severity was mediated by hematoma volume. In other words, the smaller hematoma volumes observed in physically active patients contributed to their better outcomes.

While the study has some limitations, such as its observational nature and focus on individuals who had already experienced intracerebral hemorrhage, it provides evidence that physical activity is associated with smaller hematoma volumes and improved outcomes after such an event. The researchers suggest that encouraging physical activity among individuals at risk of intracerebral hemorrhage could be beneficial.

Further research is necessary to confirm these findings and determine the optimal type and amount of physical activity for preventing and treating intracerebral hemorrhage.

Journal Reference: Adam Viktorisson, Dongni Buvarp, Anna Danielsson, et al. Prestroke physical activity is associated with admission hematoma volume and the clinical outcome of intracerebral hemorrhage. Stroke and Vascular Neurology. DOI:10.1136/svn-2023-002316