Having a stroke is the second most common cause of death globally, behind heart disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) says; it's behind 11 percent of total deaths worldwide. And unfortunately, the chances are high you're at an increased risk, seeing as one in three U.S. adults have at least one condition or habit that increases their risk of having a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes. But now, new research has found that another common condition can increase your stroke risk, making you three times more likely to experience the potentially fatal medical emergency. Read on to find out if you're at an increased risk for this life-threatening health concern.
Your ischemic stroke risk is three times higher if you have OCD.
A new study published on May 27 in the journal Stroke, which comes from the American Stroke Association, analyzed the stroke risk for those with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The researchers compared 28,000 adults with OCD and 28,000 adults without using health records from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database from 2001 to 2010. They then looked at which patients developed an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke during the years studied.
The researchers found that OCD was an independent risk factor for ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. According to the new study's findings, adults with OCD are over three times more likely to develop an ischemic stroke compared to adults without OCD.
The risk is even more significant for older adults.
According to the study, middle-aged and elderly adults with OCD had the highest elevated risk of developing an ischemic stroke. Adults younger than 40 years old with OCD still had a higher risk of this type of stroke compared to adults who did not have OCD, but less so than those who were older. For OCD patients 40 to 59 years old, the ischemic stroke risk was nearly 2.7 times higher than those without OCD. And for those 60 years or older, this risk shot up to nearly 3.5 times higher.
Researchers say people with OCD should be more careful about other stroke risk factors.
If you have OCD, you may need to be more cautious when it comes to other stroke-related risk factors, the study authors note. They point out that previous research has shown an association between OCD and metabolic disorders that can elevate stroke risk. For instance, a 2013 study published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry evaluated metabolic syndrome in 104 OCD patients and found that 36.5 percent had abdominal obesity, 42.3 percent had hypertension, 23.1 percent had high triglyceride levels, and 4.8 percent had fasting hyperglycemia.
"The results of our study should encourage people with OCD to maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as quitting or not smoking, getting regular physical activity and managing a healthy weight to avoid stroke-related risk factors," Ya-Mei Bai, MD, senior author for the 2021 study and a professor in the department of psychiatry at Taipei Veterans General Hospital and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University College of Medicine in Taiwan, said in a statement.
OCD is a common condition, and you may not know you have it.
The International OCD Foundation says it is estimated that about 1 in 100 adults have OCD, which equates to about two to three million adults in the U.S. OCD can start at any age, but tends to first appear between the ages of 8 and 12 or between the late teen years and early adulthood.
There's also a chance you have OCD and don't know it. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry that analyzed the OCD diagnoses of nearly 1,200 physicians, more than 50 percent of individuals with OCD are misdiagnosed with other mental health disorders.