WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke rates have increased among people with HIV in recent years while declining in the U.S. population at large, new research shows, raising the possibility that treatments for the AIDS-causing virus may put these patients at higher risk for cardiovascular trouble.
There's no direct proof linking the medications to the higher stroke rate, but previous research has suggested that HIV drugs can boost cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which contribute to stroke risk.
"Until we have a better idea what's happening, this is a call or reminder to clinicians to be cognizant of these risk factors for stroke in these HIV patients," said study author Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, a neuroscience professor at the University of California, San Diego.
For their study, published online Jan. 19 in the journal Neurology, Ovbiagele and colleagues examined a database of hospitalizations for stroke from 1997, when a new generation of AIDS drugs was in its early days of use, through 2006.
They found that while overall hospitalizations for stroke fell by 7 percent, the number of stroke hospitalizations in HIV-infected people rose by 60 percent in 2006. (The researchers adjusted their numbers to account for factors such as age and gender.)
The researchers also looked at the two kinds of stroke -- ischemic (when a blood vessel is blocked) and hemorrhagic (when a blood vessel bursts). There was no change in the percentage of hemorrhagic stroke patients who were HIV-positive, but the rate went up from 0.08 percent to .18 percent -- more than doubling -- among HIV patients who had ischemic strokes.
The latter number suggests, but doesn't prove, that more HIV patients are suffering from blockages in their blood vessels. Some previous research has suggested that HIV patients have higher levels of heart attacks, which also occur when vesse
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