Blood pressure reductions were most significant for those who started exercising within six months of their stroke
Exercises after a stroke improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of repeat strokes, a new review of previous studies concludes.
It was interesting to see that blood pressure reductions mirrored blood pressure drops you’d expect if someone started taking medication,” senior study author Dr. Ali Ali of the University of Sheffield in the UK said in an interview to Reuters.
Ali’s team pooled data from 20 earlier studies that evaluated exercise programs after a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack, or TIA). The studies involved a total of 1,031 patients from 10 countries.
Some studies focused on aerobic exercise such as walking, running, cycling and circuits; others evaluated resistance exercises aimed at improving muscle strength or endurance.
The researchers found that stroke patients who participated in exercise programs - particularly aerobic programs - reduced both their top and bottom blood pressure numbers several points compared with those who didn’t exercise. Exercise also improved cholesterol levels, but it had no effect on blood glucose levels after overnight fasting or on body mass index.
Blood pressure reductions were most significant for those who started exercising within six months of their stroke. The drop was also more significant for those who also received lessons on diet and health.
Ali’s team is now conducting research to learn what kinds of exercise programs might be most appealing to stroke patients, and what barriers might keep them from exercising, such as lack of transportation and poor social support.