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Stroke Numbers Rise Among People With HIV

By Candace Y.A. Montague

January 18, 2011

People with HIV incresing the number of stroke cases. Photo:

People with HIV incresing the number of stroke cases. Photo:

Research suggests that people with HIV are up to three times more likely to have a stroke than those who are not infected. The study will be published tomorrow in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of California conducted the research. He stated that, "Our findings showed that stroke hospitalizations in the United States decreased by seven percent in the general population within the last decade while stroke hospitalizations for people with HIV rose 67 percent."

There are three kinds of strokes. One is called Translent Ischemic Attack (TIA). These strokes are commonly referred to as mini-strokes and are caused by a temporary blood clot in the brain. Don't be fooled. They should be taken seriously. The second kind is the Hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. They account for 13 percent of stroke cases. The third and most common stroke is called Ischemic. Ischemic strokes occur as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases. Any stroke whether mini or major should not be taken lightly and is a sign of trouble within the brain.

The study revealed that stroke diagnoses among people with HIV increased by 537 more strokes from the start of the decade. People with HIV showed an increase in Ischemic strokes but not hemorrhagic. Why is the number rising? Dr. Ovbiagele explains, "Indeed, one potential explanation is the increasingly widespread use of combination antiretroviral medications in HIV-infected people. While these therapies have greatly increased life expectancy, they may boost the presence of risk factors associated with stroke. Another possibility is that longer exposure to HIV as a result of greater survival, even at low viral load levels, may allow for the virus to increase stroke risk."

Information such as this is handy to know but shouldn't discourage HIV positive people from taking their medications and seeing their doctor on a regular basis. Taking care of the body through proper diet and exercise can also reduce the risk of a stroke for everyone.

For more information on the warning signs of a stroke, click here. For a visual explanation of the types of strokes, click here.

Get tested. Get care. Stay healthy.

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See Also
Neurological Complications of AIDS Fact Sheet
More on Neurological and Neurocognitive Complications of HIV/AIDS


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D.C. HIV/AIDS Examiner

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague has been learning about HIV since 1988 (and she has the certificates from the American Red Cross to prove it). Health is a high priority to Candace because she believes that nothing can come of your life if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it. One of her two master's degrees is in Community Health Promotion and Education. Candace was inspired to act against HIV after seeing a documentary in 2008 about African-American women and HIV. She knew that writing was the best way for her to make a difference and help inform others. Candace is a native Washingtonian and covers HIV news all around D.C. She has covered fundraisers, motorcycle rides, town hall meetings, house balls, Capitol Hill press conferences, election campaigns and protests for The DC and emPower News Magazine.

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