Relationship Between Shingles and Increased Heart Risks for Seniors?

Seniors who developed the painful rash commonly known as shingles may also be at higher risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Seniors who developed the painful rash commonly known as shingles may also be at higher risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

As detailed in study results published in PLOS Medicine, researchers used data from more than 67,000 newly diagnosed cases of shingles between 2006 and 2011 to track heart health in patients 65 years and older. Only 2-3% of the patients had received the shingles vaccine prior to diagnosis.

Stroke and heart attack occurrence were tracked during five different periods of time in the year after a shingles diagnosis: week one, weeks two to four, weeks five to 12, weeks 13 to 26, and at six months.

Study results indicated that stroke risk “significantly” rose for up to three months immediately following a shingles diagnosis, with the largest bump (more than twofold increase in risk) occurring during week one itself.

The increase in heart attack risk followed a similar pattern, nearly doubling in risk during the first week after a shingles diagnosis.

Caroline Minassian, PhD, Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in England, and the study’s lead author remarked, “The study highlights when patients with shingles may be most vulnerable. If we know when these events are more likely to happen, this may potentially help to prevent strokes and heart attacks.”

Because of a low vaccine uptake in the study population and lack of evidence suggesting shingles vaccines had either prevented or triggered stroke or heart attack risk, Minassian said that further research is necessary.