UCSD logoOn the whole, the rate at which people are being hospitalized for stroke has seen a downfall in past few years or so. However the figures have drastically risen for patients blighted with HIV. Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University reveal that in comparison to uninfected individuals, those with HIV have apparently up to three times higher chances of suffering from a stroke.

As part of the study, a national dataset comprising of all hospital patients identified with stroke in the time period between 1997 and 2006 were analyzed. The scientists observed that the number of people diagnosed with stroke in the general population lowered by 7 percent during this time. Ironically, there was a significant jump of 67 percent among HIV-infected patients recognized as suffering from stroke. A surge in ischemic strokes appeared to have been the guiding force in this increase of strokes among HIV patients. This kind of stroke is known to be more common in comparison to hemorrhagic stroke.

These findings were initiated by Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Avindra Nath, MD, of Johns Hopkins University. A direct impact of a stroke could be permanent loss of brain function because of reduced or disturbed blood flow. According to Ovbiagele, the time period that showed this increase coexisted with the evolving and extensive use of HAART for HIV patients. Though the therapy has been observed to increase the life of HIV/AIDs patients, data does hint at it being linked with metabolic complications associated to higher risk of stroke.

“The rise in HIV stroke rate may simply be because patients are living longer,” Ovbiagele mentioned. “Stroke risk is highly correlated with increasing age. Almost three-quarters of strokes occur after the age of 65. Indeed, after 55, the risk doubles for each successive decade.”

“Patients on HAART will clearly need to remain on the drugs to extend their lives, but the challenge will be to clarify whether HAART therapy is an innocent bystander or a direct culprit in this process. Furthermore, it would be helpful to find out if rates of myocardial infarctions, more commonly known as heart attacks, are rising among HIV patients since they share similar underlying biological mechanisms to ischemic strokes,” Ovbiagele added.

Among HIV patients, it was observed that the average age of people suffering from stroke was when they were in their 50s. In early analysis, it has been shown that people using drugs part of HAART could have their lipid and glucose levels affected. The latter are known to be metabolic biomarkers related to ischemic strokes.

The study features in a paper published in the Jan. 19 online issue of Neurology.