A hormone naturally produced by the body has been found to greatly improve long-term recovery rates following a stroke, writes Siski GreenResearchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg assessed the progress of 407 patients aged between 18 and 70; all had all had a stroke and were then followed for two years afterwards. Measuring levels of a specific hormone – insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) - the researchers found that patients who recovered most successfully also had higher levels of the hormone. This remained true for up to two years after the stroke. The IGF-1 hormone is naturally higher in people who exercise often but levels are also affected by other growth hormones, heredity and nutrition, say the researchers. Body mass index also affects a person’s IGF-1 levels. It’s a hormone that plays in an important role in growth during childhood and it naturally declines with age, but although it appears linked to longevity (some animal studies have indicated it has a positive effect), no studies have been able to show whether it has a negative or positive impact on longevity in humans.The researchers say that their results may help explain why patients who do more regular exercise, including physiotherapy, are more likely to make better progress than those who don’t. Now they plan to assess whether drug treatments that artificially raise the levels of IGF-1 could also help with recovery after a stroke.