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Dr. Max Gomez: Shingles And Higher Risk For Stroke

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – If you have ever had the chicken pox then you’re already at risk for developing shingles, however, what many don’t realize is that shingles can also lead to a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.

As CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported Thursday, a new study has been released by British researchers that closely links herpes zoster, also known as shingles, with a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.

The study compared nearly 107,000 people between the ages 18-40 who had shingles to more than 213,000 people of similar ages who did not have shingles.  The results of the study were sobering, Dr. Gomez reported.

“If you had herpes zoster [shingles] from age 18-40 you were much more likely to have stroke, heart attack, or a transient ischemic attack,” said Dr. Jennifer Frontera, of Cleveland Clinic.

The study reported that people under 40 years old were 74 percent more likely to have a stroke if they had shingles.

Researchers theorize that young people seemed at greater risk than those over 40 because older shingles patients may already be taking steps to reduce their cardiovascular risk factors, such as lowering their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, Gomez reported.

Researchers said further studies may tell whether the shingles vaccine could help to reduce the number of heart attacks and stroke.  However, current guidelines only recommend the vaccine for anyone 60 and older, so there is a chance the vaccine would not help younger patients.

Experts say if you’ve had shingles, regardless of age, you should be screened for stroke risk factors even if you have no signs or symptoms of heart disease.

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