News & Insights 19 August 2021

Physical activity can reduce stroke risk and aid stroke rehabilitation

Strokes are the second leading cause of death worldwide and a major cause of acquired disability. In the UK, strokes are the fourth leading cause of death; responsible for 35,000 deaths annually. Recurrent cardiovascular events, including suffering another stroke, are common among stroke survivors. However, there are effective ways to reduce the risk of strokes and improve post-stroke complications.

It is important to recognise when someone may be suffering from a stroke so you can get help quickly. Quick intervention may increase a person’s chance of survival and reduce the risk of long-term disability. The main stroke symptoms are outlined by the NHS and can be remembered with the word FAST:

Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

FAST will usually identify most strokes, however there are other symptoms to look out for, including: paralysis of one side of the body, sudden loss or blurring of vision, dizziness, confusion, difficulty understanding what others are saying, problems with balance and co-ordination, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), a sudden and very severe headache and loss of consciousness.

Physical activity for reducing stroke risk:

Physical inactivity is one of the leading risk factors for strokes. There is substantial and consistent evidence that being physically active significantly lowers the risk of strokes, and this evidence suggests that physical activity has the potential to counteract other risk factors. Moderate amounts of physical activity whilst at work is associated with a 36% reduction of stroke risk compared with those who do not move whilst they are working. High levels of physical activity outside of work are associated with a 20–25% risk reduction.

Physical activity after a stroke:

Longer-term problems are reported by stroke survivors one to five years post stroke. The most common include mobility (58%), fatigue (52%) and concentration (45%). The use of physical activity to maximise recovery after a stroke has a growing evidence base. A recent meta-analysis predicts that physical activity after stroke is at least as effective in reducing mortality as antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs, which are prescribed to stroke survivors to help reduce the risk of future strokes or other cardiovascular events. These findings indicate that stroke survivors could be on less medication and avoid negative side effects whilst still improving their health and quality of life. Physical activity can reduce the risk of suffering a second stroke by lowering blood pressure, reducing blood cholesterol, and keeping your heart healthy.

Importantly, to achieve this intensity of activity you don’t need to do strenuous sport or exercise. There are likely numerous examples of moderate-intensity activity in your daily routine, such as vacuuming the house, walking the dog, or mowing the lawn. Every move you make can count.

To conclude, keeping physically active in our day-to-day lives is very important to reduce the risk of strokes. Additionally, physical activity after a stroke can reduce the risk of suffering a second one and is highly effective in aiding rehabilitation by reducing symptoms and building strength. At KiActiv® we recommend reducing the time you spend sat down, and making small changes to your lifestyle to become more active and gain the many benefits of leading an active life.

The KiActiv® Team