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ImagePeople infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may be up to three times more likely to have a stroke compared to those not affected with HIV, new research suggests.

For the study, scientists reviewed all stroke hospitalizations in the United States within the last decade. The number of stroke diagnoses in the general population declined with 71,742 fewer strokes overall.

However, stroke diagnoses among people with HIV increased by 537 more strokes from the start of the decade. For those with HIV, the study showed an increase in ischemic strokes but no increase in hemorrhagic strokes.

An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot and is the most common type of stroke.

"The average age for a stroke among people with HIV was in the 50s, which is much lower than that of those without HIV. This finding suggests that HIV or HIV treatments may be directly related to stroke occurrence," said Bruce Ovbiagele, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

"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."

The study has been published in the online issue of Neurology , the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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