For the study, Pan’s team compared Taiwanese national health data for more than 28,000 adults with OCD and 28,000 without the condition.
Over 11 years, people with OCD were over three times more likely to have a stroke compared with those without OCD. People aged 60 and older were at greatest risk, the data showed.
The study authors said the stroke risk remained even after they accounted for other factors, such as obesity, heart disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
An ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain. No difference was found in the risk for hemorrhagic stroke (caused by bleeding in the brain). Nor were medications to treat OCD linked to an increased stroke risk.
“To keep a healthy life, [lifestyle habits] such as quitting smoking and regular exercise may be crucial in stroke prevention,” Pan said. “How to help our patients achieve this goal needs the help from everyone, including family and friends.”
OCD is characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts and obsessions that drive someone to repeat a behavior over and over. Repetitive behaviors can include hand-washing, compulsively checking on things or obsessively cleaning. These behaviors can interfere with daily activities and social interactions.
Dr. Larry Goldstein, chairman of the University of Kentucky department of neurology in Lexington, reviewed the study findings.
Goldstein pointed out that the actual risk of stroke among OCD patients is quite low.