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How shingles can increase the risk of other health issues

There are many reasons to get the shingles vaccination, and it’s important to know that shingles can increase the risk of other health issues.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – this is the same virus that is responsible for chicken pox. In fact, this is how you get shingles; when you get chickenpox, the virus goes dormant and hides in some of the nerves in your body. Later in life, it can reawaken, leading to shingles, which is closely linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

A study looking at more than 200,000 people, some for as long as 16 years, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who developed shingles had about a 30% higher risk of having a stroke or have a heart attack. For stroke, this was especially the case between 5 and 12 years after having shingles – for a heart attack, the highest risk was in the period 9 to 12 years of shingles.

Dr. Sam Kazziha is an interventional cardiologist at Henry Ford Health.

“At least 33% of us will have shingles, so that should increase and improve people who think I should be vaccinated,” Kazziha said. “It’s something very important to do because it has an impact on your survival or a heart attack in the long term.”

The journal does not show that shingles causes cardiovascular disease; it only shows an association with a significantly increased risk. Nevertheless, it is plausible that the inflammation of the shingles probably contributes to the buildup of blockages in blood vessels.

Where does the shingles rash usually appear and has it made a difference?

The most common location is a line that runs slightly diagonally around someone’s torso. The face, particularly the forehead on one side, is the next most common site, and although this study did not track the location of the rash, there is no reason to think one site would increase the risk over another .


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