One study showed that shingles is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Shingles, caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, often causes a painful rash and can appear anywhere on the head or body. After contracting chickenpox, the virus remains in a person’s body for the rest of their life. Years and even decades later, the virus can reactivate as shingles . We know that chicken pox and -commonly called- shingles, affect a large portion of the population. Some statistics report that about 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime and that, in the United States alone, everyone age 50 and older has been infected with the chickenpox virus and is therefore at risk. of shingles.
The bad news comes from a new study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which shows that shingles, also called Satan’s flames, are associated with a 30% higher risk of serious cardiovascular events , such as stroke or heart attack. It seems that the herpes zoster virus is guilty of changes in vascular structures. These changes can increase the risk of blocked blood vessels, restricted blood flow and lead to the risks mentioned above. The researchers add that the most exposed to these complications are people with potentially immunocompromised conditions or taking immunosuppressive treatments.
The researchers collected information on the medical history of the study participants through questionnaires, through which they obtained information about the presence of shingles, stroke and coronary heart disease.
The study, involving 200,000 men and women, led the research team to follow participants for 16 years, monitoring the incidence of stroke and coronary heart disease, such as non-fatal myocardial infarction (heart attack) or fatal, coronary artery bypass grafting or angioplasty. The results showed that people who had previously developed shingles had a 30 percent greater long-term risk of a cardiovascular event than those who did not have shingles. Furthermore, the elevated risk may persist beyond 12 years of contracting herpes because many of the study participants reported cardiovascular events years after having shingles.
“Our findings suggest long-term implications of shingles and underscore the importance of public health efforts to prevent it,” said study first author Sharon Curhan, Ph.D., Ph.D. Medicines of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Given the growing number of people at risk and the availability of an effective vaccine , vaccination against shingles could present a valuable opportunity to reduce weight and the risk of subsequent cardiovascular complications.”
- Herpes Zoster and Long‐Term Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. (ahajournals.org)