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Dr Marie Sartain
/ Categories: APhA News

Shingles may increase risk for stroke, heart attack

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is associated with an almost 30% higher long-term risk of major cardiovascular events such as stroke or heart attack.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston conducted a large longitudinal study of more than 200,000 U.S. men and women who did not have a prior history of stroke or coronary heart disease.

The team collected information on shingles, stroke, and coronary heart disease using questionnaires collected every 2 years and confirmed the diagnoses with a medical record review.

Researchers followed the participants up to 16 years and evaluated whether those who had developed shingles were at higher risk for stroke or coronary heart disease years after the shingles episode. They found that elevated risk may persist for 12 years or more after developing shingles.

The researchers tracked incidences of stroke and coronary heart disease. They also evaluated a combined outcome of CVD, which included either stroke or coronary heart disease, whichever came first.

Additionally, they found that the risk may be greater among those with immunocompromising conditions or for those taking immunosuppressing treatments.

“Our findings suggest there are long-term implications of shingles and highlight the importance of public health efforts for prevention,” said lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in a news release. “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.”

Due to timing, much of the study took place in the period before the shingles vaccines became widely available. Even after its introduction, the uptake of this vaccination has been generally low. Because of these limitations, researchers were not able to evaluate whether vaccination status may influence the association of shingles and long-term risk of a major cardiovascular event.

“We are currently collecting vaccination information among our participants and hope to conduct these studies in the future,” said Curhan.

As more people choose to receive the shingles vaccine, future studies could examine whether vaccination influences the relation of shingles and the risk of CVD.

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