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Adults with OCD at increased risk for stroke, study finds

Repeated hand-washing is common among people with OCD, and the condition may increase their risk for stroke later in life. Photo by offthelefteye/Pixabay
Repeated hand-washing is common among people with OCD, and the condition may increase their risk for stroke later in life. Photo by offthelefteye/Pixabay

May 27 (UPI) -- Adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to suffer a stroke later in life compared with those who do not have the mental health disorder, an analysis published Thursday by the journal Stroke found.

OCD increases a person's risk for ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot that blocks the flow of oxygen to the brain, threefold, the data showed.

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The risk was highest among adults 60 and older with OCD.

Ischemic stroke risk was still higher for adults with OCD even after taking other conditions such as obesity, heart disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, which also increase risk, into account, researchers said.

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Medications to treat OCD, including antidepressants, were not associated with an increased risk of stroke, according to the researchers.

"The results of our study should encourage people with OCD to maintain a healthy lifestyle," study co-author Dr. Ya-Mei Bai said in a statement.

This includes "quitting or not smoking, getting regular physical activity and managing a healthy weight to avoid [other] stroke-related risk factors," said Bai, a professor of psychiatry at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan.

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OCD is a common mental health condition in which sufferers experience unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations, or obsessions, that can drive them to perform certain tasks repeatedly, such as hand washing, checking on things or continuously cleaning, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

This desire to repeat certain tasks are called compulsions, and they can be debilitating, affecting sufferers' quality of life and their ability to engage in day-to-day activities, the institute says.

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OCD often occurs after stroke or other brain injury, Bai said.

Stroke is the second-leading cause of death after heart disease worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

For this study, Bai and her colleagues examined the health records of more than 56,000 adults included in the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database over a 10-year period.

Half of the adults included in the study had been diagnosed with OCD, while the other half had not, the researchers said.

Those with the condition were diagnosed at an average age of 37.

Adults with OCD were more than three times as likely to have a stroke from a blood clot compared with adults who did not have OCD, the data showed.

"For decades, studies have found a relationship between stroke first and OCD later," Bai said.

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"Our findings remind clinicians to closely monitor blood pressure and lipid profiles, which are known to be related to stroke in patients with OCD," she said.

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