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Shingles Before 40 Ups Heart Disease Risk

Update Date: Jan 02, 2014 06:18 PM EST
Heart, obesity
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Shingles can dramatically increase a person's risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to new research.

The latest study involved 106,601 people who had shingles and 213,202 match controls. Researchers followed participants for an average of 6.3 years after they contracted shingles. They accounted for body mass index, smoking, cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and other vascular risk factors.

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The study revealed that a bout of shingles increased the risk of heart attack by 10 percent and the risk of mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack, by 15 percent. However, having shingles did not alter the risk of suffering a major stroke.

However, participants who got shingles before age 40 were 74 percent more likely to have stroke. Researchers also found that these people were 2.4 times more likely to have a TIA if they had shingles and 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

Lead researcher Dr. Judith Breuer of University College London said that people with shingles should get themselves checked for other heart risks.

"Anyone with shingles, and especially younger people, should be screened for stroke risk factors," Breuer said. "The shingles vaccine has been shown to reduce the number of cases of shingles by about 50 percent. Studies are needed to determine whether vaccination can also reduce the incidence of stroke and heart attack. However, what is also clear is that factors that increase the risk of stroke also increase the risk of shingles, so we do not know if vaccinating people can reduce the risk of stroke per se. Current recommendations are that anyone 60 years and older should be vaccinated. The role for vaccination in younger individuals with vascular risk factors needs to be determined."

The findings are published in the journal Neurology.

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