Having chickenpox can lead to shingles- Infections increase the risk of stroke or heart attack by 30%, says new research

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In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers investigated the link between shingles and "long-term risk of stroke or coronary heart disease (CHD) among participants." The results of the study indicate that shingles infections correlate with a "higher long-term risk of a major cardiovascular event." [i]

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An up-close photo of skin infected with herpes zoster.Photo bydoucefleur/Adobe Stock

The study participants included over 200,000 men and women with no previous coronary heart disease or stroke history. Questionnaires were used to collect data every two years. Participants were followed for up to 16 years. Researchers evaluated which participants developed shingles and if they were at an increased risk for stroke or heart attack. [ii]

Results from the study indicated that people who developed shingles had a shocking 30% higher long-term risk of suffering a major cardiovascular event. This is in comparison to individuals who had not developed shingles. Furthermore, the elevated risk is estimated to persist for 12 or more years following a shingles infection. [iii]

Shingles is "a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body." The rash is made up of blisters that scab over and generally clear up within two to four weeks. According to the CDC, 1 in every three people in the United will develop shingles. Having chickenpox puts you at risk of developing shingles. Over 99% of Americans who were born before 1980 had chickenpox. [iv]

Consequently, the CDC recommends a two-dose vaccine for adults 50 years and older to combat shingles infection. Researchers who participated in the study indicated that public health efforts to prevent shingles are necessary. Lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, ScM, stated,

Our findings suggest there are long-term implications of shingles. Given the growing number of Americans at risk for this painful and often disabling disease and the availability of an effective vaccine, shingles vaccination could provide a valuable opportunity to reduce the burden of shingles and reduce the risk of subsequent cardiovascular complications. [v]

References

[i] Sharon Curhan et al., Herpes Zoster and Long-Term Risk of Cardiovascular Disease (Nov. 16, 2022)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Shingles (Herpes Zoster) (2022)

[v] Brigham & Women's Hospital Press Release, Shingles Associated with Increased Risk for Stroke, Heart Attack (Nov. 22, 2022)

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