Art is life, as they say. For stroke survivors, that expression is literally true, a new study has found.
Scientists have determined stroke patients who like art have a significantly higher quality of life than those who do not. Patients who appreciated music, painting and theater had better recovery rates from their strokes than those who are less artistically inclined, according to research presented at the 12th Annual Spring Meeting on Cardiovascular Nursing in Copenhagen.
"We know that every six seconds there is a person affected by stroke in the world," said the new study’s lead author Dr. Ercole Vellone, an assistant professor in nursing science at the School of Nursing, University Tor Vergata, Rome. "Identifying strategies to improve stroke recovery and patients' quality of life represent a priority for the health care system and art exposure seems to be promising."
For the new study, investigators asked 192 stroke survivors -- average age: 70 years --if they liked art (music, painting, theater). They then compared the quality of life for patients interested in art (105) and those not interested in art (87).
Overall, researchers found patients interested in art had better general health, higher energy levels and found it easier to walk. They were also happier, less anxious or depressed, felt calmer, had better memory and communication skills.
"Stroke survivors who saw art as an integrated part of their former lifestyle, by expressing appreciation towards music, painting and theatre, showed better recovery skills than those who did not," said Vellone. “The results suggest that art may make long term changes to the brain which help it recover when things go wrong."
Previous research has shown listening to music may stimulate the release of dopamine and other chemicals in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure, well-being and positive emotions.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the biggest cause of disability in adults.