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Light-intensity exercise tops natural cures for stroke

By Chukwuma Muanya
29 September 2022   |   2:34 am
A new study explores the relationship between varying levels of physical activity, being sedentary, and the risk of stroke

Moderate to vigorous activity produced the most substantial reduction in the risk of stroke.<br />

Moderate to vigorous activity produced the most substantial reduction in the risk of stroke

A new study explores the relationship between varying levels of physical activity, being sedentary, and the risk of stroke.

This study focuses strictly on the latter, unlike other studies that consider both heart disease and stroke.

According to the study, published in JAMA Network Open, moderate to vigorous activity produced the most substantial reduction in the risk of stroke.

Activity is divided into three categories: light, moderate, and vigorous. Researchers measured activity levels in METs, or “metabolic equivalents.” One MET is the amount of oxygen consumed while at rest.

Light activity (two METs) includes stretching, walking slowly, browsing in a store, wandering your office, standing, preparing food, washing dishes, playing the piano, or making the bed.

The study found that every hour spent performing light activities resulted in a 14 per cent reduction in the chances of having a stroke.

Increased activity level and stroke risk
Moderate activities (three to six METS) include walking briskly, playing doubles tennis or shooting a basketball, biking on level ground, catch-and-throw sports, climbing stairs, washing windows, sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming floors, slow dancing, scrubbing a bathtub, carrying a small child, washing your car, or gardening.

In the vigorous category (more than six METs), think of activities such as running (faster than more than five miles per hour), playing singles tennis, basketball, or soccer, swimming, jumping, carrying heavy loads, jumping rope, energetic play with children or dogs, or heavy gardening such as shovelling or hoeing.

According to the study, 175 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous activity was associated with a 43 per cent reduction in the risk of having a stroke in adults ages 45 years or older.

The study explored how hours of sedentary time may affect the risk of stroke and the risk associated with shorter periods of consecutive sedentary behaviour, or “bouts.”

Medical News Today spoke with study co-author and Distinguished Professor Virginia J. Howard, with the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, United States.

“While they (heart disease and stroke) do share some risk factors, some they do not,” Howard explained.

In addition, MNT also spoke with study co-author Dr. Steven P. Hooker, at the College of Health and Human Services at San Diego State University.

“Objective measures using an accelerometer have not been used to look at the relationship between these variables,” said Hooker. “Light intensity physical activity has not been routinely observed. Bouts of sedentary time is also a newer way of looking at the data in addition to overall sedentary time.”

Howard also noted that while it is challenging to quantify the amount and intensity of physical activity needed to prevent stroke, this study brings forth some significant progress.

The study finds less time spent being sedentary and more time being physically active — even at light or moderate intensities — is associated with a reduced risk of stroke.

“Most midlife and older adults spend greater than 65 per cent of their time in sedentary behaviours. Our sample exhibited even higher proportions of the time they were awake being sedentary, 71 per cent to 84 per cent,” Hooker explained.

The study suggests that if one’s daily sedentary time is 13 hours or greater, there is a 44 per cent increased risk of stroke. In addition, bouts of sedentary time greater than 11 minutes were associated with a 53 per cent increase in the risk of stroke, compared to shorter bouts of sedentary time of fewer than eight minutes.

“Our results show that periodically breaking up sedentary behavior with even light-intensity physical activity can reduce risk of stroke.” Hooker advised: “Intentionally getting up and accumulating four-to-five hours a day of light intensity activities is beneficial. Even better is incorporating moderate to vigorous intensity activities, if possible.”

He suggested making some small lifestyle changes that can lead to a positive impact on one’s health: walking around the house during TV commercials; setting a timer to stand or move around every 20-30 minutes during a work day; increasing light-intensity physical activity by walking more.

“This does not take a lot of time, but it does take purposeful thought and planning,” said Howard.

“Changing position and doing different movements such as walking across the hall or room or around outside, vacuuming or dusting or playing catch, having a walking telephone conversation — especially when you are on hold — is a great thing to do,” she added.

She also suggested “walk and punch, and walk and march” to increase your level of physical activity.

“That is, while you are walking, making punching movements with alternating arms. Then, another is to walk and march at the same time, like a marching band,” Howard explained.

Scientists insist that prevention is better than cure and that making modest changes in lifestyle and incorporating healthy habits can help stave off stroke.

How turmeric can spice up stroke treatment by protecting and regenerating brain cells

Meanwhile, a compound found in turmeric, a staple ingredient in curries has been found to help protect and regenerate brain cells after a stroke.

Scientists created a new molecule from curcumin, the crucial chemical in the spice, and used it in laboratory experiments, though it is yet to be tested on humans. They found it could repair damage at a molecular level and is linked to the survival of the brain cells’ neurons.

Director of translational research in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, Paul Lapchak, presented the findings at the American Heart Association International Stroke Conference being held in the city.

He said the benefits of using the new drug, called CNB-001, were that it “is quickly distributed in the brain and moderates several critical mechanisms involved in neuronal survival”.

In the laboratory tests, it was found to reduce muscle and movement control problems when given up to an hour after a stroke.

Turmeric, a bright yellow spice used in many Indian, south-east Asian and Middle Eastern dishes, comes from a plant that is part of the ginger family and is already thought to have many health benefits.

Curcumin has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine – practised on the Indian subcontinent – to treat a range of gastrointestinal disorders. Previous studies have also suggested it has anti-inflammatory properties and works as an antioxidant.

A study published in the journal Frontier of Ageing and Neuroscience has demonstrated how curcumin in turmeric protects against ischemic stroke by titrating microglia/macrophage polarisation.

Microglia and infiltrated macrophages play critical roles in regulating immune and inflammatory responses after brain injuries. Accumulating evidence shows that microglia/macrophages assume different phenotypes with distinct functions during the course of ischemic brain injury.

The researchers concluded: “We demonstrate that curcumin has a profound regulatory effect on microglial responses, promoting M2 microglial polarisation and inhibiting microglia-mediated pro-inflammatory responses. Curcumin post-treatment reduces ischemic stroke-induced brain damage and improves functional outcomes, providing new evidence that curcumin might be a promising therapeutic strategy for stroke.”

Ginger mitigates brain damage and improves memory impairment
A study published in the journal Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine demonstrated how ginger (Zingiber officinale) mitigates brain damage and improves memory impairment in focal cerebral ischemic rats.

“In conclusion, our data suggested that Zingiber officinale possessed the protective effect against focal cerebral ischemia induced by the occlusion of the right middle cerebral artery. It could attenuate memory impairment, neuro-degeneration, and brain infarct volume in this condition. The cognitive enhancing effect and neuroprotective effect of Z. officinale appeared to show almost the same magnitude as the positive control groups used in this study. Moreover, Z. officinale also showed multiple sites of action. Therefore, Z. officinale at the correct dose is a potential novel candidate for developing food supplement against focal cerebral ischemia. However, further clinical trial study is still required,” the researchers concluded.

Cerebral ischemia is known to produce brain damage and related behavioural deficits including memory. Recently, accumulating lines of evidence showed that dietary enrichment with nutritional antioxidants could reduce brain damage and improve cognitive function. In this study, the possible protective effect of Zingiber officinale, a medicinal plant reputed for its neuroprotective effect against oxidative stress-related brain damage, on brain damage and memory deficit induced by focal cerebral ischemia was elucidated.

The results showed that cognitive function and neuron density in the hippocampus of rats receiving ginger rhizome extract was improved, while the brain infarct volume was decreased. The cognitive enhancing effect and neuroprotective effect occurred partly via the antioxidant activity of the extract.

Zingiber officinale or ginger, a member of the family of Zingiberaceae, is widely used as a spice. Moreover, it is used in Asian traditional medicine for various purposes including stomachache, nausea and diarrhoea, and joint and muscle pain. In addition to the effects mentioned above, the ginger extract also possesses antioxidant activity, neuroprotective effects, and anxiolytic effects. Because Z. officinale could scavenge free radicals, an important factor in producing brain damage induced by cerebral ischemia, the researchers hypothesised that the Z. officinale extract might be able to protect against brain damage and memory impairments induced by focal cerebral ischemia via reduction of oxidative stress.
Garlic

Garlic, a wonder plant, has many medicinal properties. It contains a molecule called ajoene, which prevents blood platelets from accumulating at one place and forming a blood clot, which causes a stroke. For better effects, consume raw garlic. One of the major reasons behind cardiovascular problems is high cholesterol level. And, garlic can help you decrease the level of bad cholesterol in the body and increase the levels of the good one.

Eating garlic can increase a person’s nitric oxide levels. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and antifungal food. Its main active ingredient, allicin, is often responsible for associated health benefits.

Some research suggests that garlic increases the body’s production of nitric oxide, which helps the smooth muscles to relax and the blood vessels to dilate.
These changes can reduce hypertension.

One study reported that garlic extract reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive people.

Garlic can enhance the flavour of many savory meals, including stir-fries, soups, and omelets. Using garlic instead of salt can further promote the health of the heart.
Tomatoes

Here is another reason to savour tomatoes: a recent study in Neurology finds they may help lower your risk of ischemic stroke—blockage of a brain artery that starves cells of oxygen and causes them to die. Lycopene seems to have some beneficial effects when it is in the form of fruits and vegetables. Also, tomatoes have antioxidants. Antioxidants are believed to help protect against cell damage from molecules known as “free radicals” and “singlet molecular oxygen”. Antioxidants are thought to work by reacting with an unstable molecule and bringing it under control. Some have suggested that antioxidants may have a protective effect against stroke by reducing damage to blood vessels.

Weight loss
Research has shown that people whose BMI (Body Mass Index) is over 30 are two to three times more likely to suffer from stroke compared to those with a normal weight (a BMI of less than 25). In addition, obesity also brings with it different complications like diabetes and high blood pressure, which raises the odds of having a stroke. Therefore, it is necessary to include physical exercises as part of the everyday routine.

Avoid physical and mental stress
Stressful conditions can increase the risk of a stroke. Inadequate rest, long working hours, ongoing emotional stress, or physically demanding tasks can all contribute to stress, releasing hormones that raise blood pressure and increase the probability of blood clotting. Reducing one’s stress levels with the help of meditation, and yoga helps to overcome feelings of anger, resentment, hatred, or repressed animosity, all of which can also contribute to the risk of stroke.

Control diabetes
Diabetes is a risk factor for stroke. The high blood sugar level in the body damages blood vessels, which makes it more likely for clots to form. To prevent strokes, it is important to keep diabetes under control. One should follow a nutritionist’s instructions, monitor the blood sugar levels, and implement other lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet.

Good sleep
For those who want to reduce the risk of stroke, getting an optimal amount of sleep regularly is important. Researchers at the University of Alabama found a strong link between getting less than six hours of sleep and a higher incidence of stroke symptoms for people over 45.

Stay positive and optimistic
According to scientists at Harvard University, people with positive dispositions are far less likely to suffer from heart attacks or strokes. Studies have also found a 50 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease for those who scored highest for optimism and vitality.
Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women. Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health.
Beets

Drinking beet juice can reduce blood pressure in the short and long term. In 2015, researchers reported that drinking red beet juice led to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension who drank 250 milliliters, about one cup, of the juice every day for four weeks. The researchers noticed some positive effects within 24 hours.

In this study, those who drank one cup of beet juice every day had an average drop in blood pressure of around 8/4 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). For many, this change brought their blood pressure within the normal range. On average, a single blood pressure medication reduces levels by 9/5 mm Hg.

The researchers suggested that beet’s high levels of inorganic nitrate caused the reduction in blood pressure.

Watermelon
Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline, which may help to manage high blood pressure.

Citrulline helps the body produce nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and encourages flexibility in arteries. These effects aid the flow of blood, which can lower high blood pressure.

In one study, adults with obesity and prehypertension or mild hypertension that took watermelon extract showed reduced blood pressure in the ankles and brachial arteries. The brachial artery is the main artery in the upper arm.

Researchers have also found that animals given a diet rich in watermelon had better heart health. In one study, mice that drank a solution containing watermelon juice had 50 percent less plaque in their arteries than the control group.

The mice that drank the solution also had 50 per cent less low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which many describe as bad cholesterol, and they showed 30 per cent less weight gain than the control animals.