Shingles and Heart Disease. The connection has now been strengthened by a new study.
Although the reasons are not yet clear, the authors of the study are hoping to raise awareness among clinicians about the link between shingles and heart disease.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, and once exposed to this virus, it can remain in a dormant state inside the body.
➡ Although many years later the virus can reactivate and cause shingles (also called herpes zoster), to date scientists aren’t sure why it becomes active again.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Anyone who has suffered from chickenpox may develop shingles; however, the risk of shingles increases as a person gets older.
The pain from shingles can be significant, and, in some cases, may continue for years after the rash is gone. This condition is called post-herpetic neuralgia.
There are around 1 million cases of shingles each year in the U.S.and it’s estimated that 1 out of 3 people will develop shingles at some point during their lifetime. The risk increases with age and is most common after the age of 60.
Shingles And Heart Disease Risks:
A study published in the journal PLOS Medicine in 2015 concluded: “Stroke and myocardial infarction (heart attack) rates are frequently increased after exposure to herpes zoster.”
The latest studies, headed up by Sung-Han Kim, Ph.D., from the Department of Infectious Diseases at Asian Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, is one of the largest projects of its kind.
The team delved into the National Health Insurance Service’s “medical checkup” database.
They collected and combined information regarding the incidence of newly diagnosed shingles, strokes, and heart attacks.
They followed a total of 519,880 patients from 2003 to 2013.
- Within this timeframe, there were 23,233 shingles cases. These cases were then matched to 23,213 people who did not develop shingles, who served as the control group.
The shingles group were found to share certain traits. For instance:
- They were more likely to be female, older, have higher blood pressure and high cholesterol, and have diabetes. These are all also common risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
Once the analysis had been completed, the risk of cardiovascular events was shown to be elevated in the shingles group.
The risks increased by 35% for strokes and 59% for heart attacks.
- The cardiovascular risk was highest in the first 12 months following the shingles diagnosis, and it slowly decreased over time.
- People under the age of 40 who’d had shingles, were 74% more likely to have a stroke than those who had not.
While further studies are needed into the reasons shingle patients have this higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, it’ s important that physicians treating these patients make them aware of their increased risk.
In addition, anyone with shingles should be screened for stroke risk factors.
Current recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are that anyone aged 60 years and older receive the herpes zoster vaccine. They state:
“The shingles vaccine has been shown to reduce the number of cases of shingles by about 50%. Studies are needed to determine whether vaccination can also reduce the incidence of stroke and heart attack.”
* The results of this study are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.