Dancing His Way to Stroke Prevention

Photo Cred: Ashlight Photography

What do Indian folk dancing, acting and stroke prevention have in common? Answer: Rohan Arora, MD, newly appointed director of the stroke program at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital.

The vascular neurologist and weekend thespian recently traded in his white lab coat for brightly colored garb to perform Bhangra – a type of high-energy dance popularized in northwestern India – in the independent short film “We Just Met.”

 Dancing, as well as most forms of aerobic activity, helps lower blood pressure, reduce stress and boost the level of good cholesterol, which in turn promotes cardiovascular health, says Dr. Arora, who studies at NYC Bhangra Dance Company & School.

And while there have been numerous large-scale studies on how structured exercise can benefit heart health, that’s not the case for stroke prevention.

“The risk factors for heart disease and stroke are same,” explained Dr. Arora, who wants to study how Bhangra dancing helps prevent stroke and heart disease.

Additionally, Bhangra may also have a role in promoting stroke recovery by release of endorphins and serotonin – the brain’s feel good chemicals that cause neurogenesis (growth and development of brain tissue).

“When you dance Bhangra, you are creating an internal smile and hearing the rhythmic music that accompanies it, in theory, helps activate the pleasure centers of the brain which may reduce anxiety and increase cardiovascular health,” he said.

A native of New Delhi, India, he comes from a family of doctors and credits his career choice to his father and grandfather. Dr. Arora says his interest in stroke prevention is personal because South Asians – those hailing from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – are at an elevated risk for heart disease and stroke.

In addition to heading the hospital’s stroke program – which recently received a Get With the Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement award from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, Dr. Arora is also director of the vascular neurology fellowship and stroke research program at North Shore University Hospital.

A graduate of Kasturba Medical College at Manipal University, Karnataka, India, Dr. Arora completed his residency training in neurology at Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia. He went on to do his stroke fellowship at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. While serving as a research assistant in the neurology and neurosurgery departments at The University of Texas Medical School, he attained a Masters degree in Public Health from the university’s School of Public Health.