Shingles Can Increase Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

Having shingles may increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke, especially in the first year following the onset of the painful rash, caused by the herpes zoster virus.

New research from the Asan Medical Center in Seoul has found, by analyzing the medical records of more than 23,000 shingles patients between 2003 and 2013, that having shingles is associated with a 41 per cent increased risk for heart related problems.  Researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the risk for heart conditions and stroke.  The study also found that having shingles increased the risk for stroke by 35 per cent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults over the age of 60 should be vaccinated against shingles.  The vaccine can lower the risk for shingles by half for those in their 60s but with age, the effectiveness falls to 41 percent for adults between 70 and 79 and to less than 20 per cent for seniors over the age of 80.

The Korean study shines a light on the importance of vaccinating against shingles over the age of 60 and creating awareness among patients and doctors about the increased risk for heart problems and stroke for people with shingles.  And while further research is necessary, it is suggested that inflammation as a result of the active virus may cause blood clotting, resulting in an increased risk for stroke or heart attack.

Because the vaccine helps prevent recurring episodes of shingles, even those who have already had shingles should be vaccinated.

Learn more about the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by following this link.