Cocaine users in their 30s and 40s have increased risk for stroke, a new study found. In a controlled population study, researchers analyzed 1,090 ischemic stroke cases with 1,154 controls and found that cocaine use within the 24 hours of the stroke event increased the risk substantially.

The researchers from the University of Maryland also found that smoking cocaine in crack form increases the stroke risk by eight-fold. In the cases studied, the ischemic stroke patients were aged between 15 and 49 years old and hospitalized in the Baltimore/ Washington DC area between 1992 and 2008.

Ischemic stroke is due to a blood vessel blockage in or leading to the patient's brain. A blood clot often causes the blockage in this type of stroke. Ischemic stroke is also the most common stroke type.

In the cases, the participants were asked if they used pills, medications or drugs for recreational and non-medical reasons. Compared to the control group (non-stroke patients), the stroke patients were more likely to have history of high blood pressure and diabetes. They were also more likely to be tobacco smokers.

In the stroke group, 28 percent had a history of cocaine use. Twenty-six percent in the control group said they used cocaine at some point in the past. The researchers did not find a link between increased stroke and ever use of cocaine.

Researchers found that 26 participants used cocaine within 24 hours of their stroke incident while 14 people used it within six hours of the ordeal.

"Among other factors, we know that cocaine causes rapid increase in blood pressure and also can cause cardiac problems that can lead to stroke," said Steven J. Kittner, the study's senior author. Kittner is from the Baltimore-based Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The research was published in the journal Stroke.

Kittner added that about 10 to 20 young people in every 100,000 suffer an ischemic stroke. The risk is greater among African Americans compared to Caucasians.

Dr. Antonio Siniscalci from the Annunziata Hospital said that smoking crack cocaine appears to be linked to stroke, wherein cocaine hydrochloride causes bleeding in the brain. Siniscalci, who was not part of the study, added that is advisable to screen young cryptogenic stroke patients, especially men, for drug use. A cryptogenic stroke is a type of stroke with unknown origin.

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