The association of physical activity with changes in brain volume and carotid artery stiffness in patients at risk for stroke
Approved Research ID: 91159
Approval date: August 9th 2022
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability; for many patients, however, the cause of a stroke is unidentifiable. Without knowing what factors contribute to a stroke, clinicians are unable to offer targeted screening procedures and treatments for patients most at-risk of stroke. Research suggests that an increase in brain white matter lesions that display as areas of increased brightness on MRI scans, known as white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), may be associated with a high risk of stroke. Multiple studies have shown that increased carotid artery stiffness, a stroke risk factor, may contribute to the development of WMHs. Current findings suggest that, unlike permanent risk factors for stroke, physical activity can induce positive changes in brain white matter and carotid artery stiffness, thereby reducing stroke risk. Thus, it is clinically meaningful to evaluate the association of physical activity with variations in brain white matter and carotid artery stiffness for at-risk patients.
This investigation has the potential to aid clinicians in reducing a patient's stroke risk by utilizing wearable activity trackers. The scientific premise of our study is that physical activity can adjust two stroke risk factors: WMH volume and carotid artery stiffness. Our hypothesis is that at-risk patients who engage in moderate or high levels of physical activity will present with reduced WMH volume and carotid artery stiffness compared to those who engage in low levels of physical activity. Using wearable activity tracker and imaging data, this project's specific aim examines whether at-risk individuals who engage in physical activity possess reduced WMH volume and carotid artery stiffness relative to their less active counterparts. The public health impact of this study is the establishment that physical activity can yield positive changes in brain volume and carotid artery stiffness for patients at-risk of stroke. After receiving the wearable, imaging, and demographic data from UK Biobank, analyses and publication of our findings will be complete within 1 year.