New study links shingles to stroke

People under age 40: 74% more likely to have a stroke if they had had shingles

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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A new British study finds having shingles at a young age may significantly increase your risk for stroke- even years later.

"If you had herpes zoster from age 18 to 40 you were much more likely to have stroke, heart attack, or a transient ischemic attack," said Dr. Jennifer Frontera, who did not take part in the study but treats stroke victims at Cleveland Clinic.

Researchers at University College, London compared nearly 107,000 people who had herpes zoster, or shingles, to more than 213,000 people of similar ages who did not have shingles.

Results show people under 40 years old were 74% more likely to have a stroke if they had had shingles.  Researchers say further studies should attempt to determine if the shingles vaccine can help to reduce the number of heart attacks and stroke.

Current recommendations are that anyone 60 and older should get the shingles vaccine.  They also say anyone with shingles, especially younger people, should be screened for stroke risk factors. Frontera agrees.

"And It may be that those general practitioners, once they diagnose somebody with herpes zoster paid a lot more attention to risk factors for stroke and other medical problems that those people might have, so it might be biased in that way, but nonetheless it never hurts to be on the safe side," said Frontera.

Complete findings for this study are in the online issue of the journal Neurology.

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