Beyond VO2peak: Understanding exercise-induced in cardiovascular function after stroke

Stroke is the leading cause of neurological disability in Canada. Most stroke survivors have a number of other related conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, which contribute to their risk of additional strokes. Exercise not only improves fitness, it also has the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Ada Tang is working to understand how aerobic exercise can influence stroke risk factors and heart and arterial function in those who have already had a stroke. She will be evaluating the effects of an exercise program on 51 participants between the ages of 50 and 80, all of whom are one-year post stroke and can walk short distances without help. Participants will be randomly assigned to either an aerobic exercise program, or to a balance and flexibility program. Both programs are conducted at Vancouver General Hospital and feature three one-hour sessions per week. Program participants are carefully monitored during their exercise sessions. The participants’ fitness level and blood pressure will be tested at the start and the end of the six-month exercise program and two months after the end of the program to see if the benefits are maintained. Echocardiograms will be performed to look at heart size and function, blood tests will measure cholesterol levels and other signs of inflammation, and other tests will be done to determine how exercise can improve artery flexibility, heart rate and rhythm.

This study will help us better understand how exercise after stroke can improve heart function and heart health. Research results will help health professionals understand the best way to promote a healthy lifestyle after stroke to lower the risk of heart disease or another stroke.