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Shingles can up heart attack risk

London - A bout of shingles puts you at higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack years later, a study shows.

For people under 40, an attack of the viral infection led to the risk of stroke rising by 74 percent and a heart attack by 50 percent.

The virus that causes chickenpox, the varicella zoster, or herpes zoster virus, is the same one that causes shingles. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Older people were less affected, but shingles increased their risk of a heart attack by 10 percent and of a “mini-stroke” or transient ischaemic attack by 15 percent. Shingles is caused by reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. According to the NHS, it is estimated that 189 000 adults get shingles in the UK every year.

After a case of chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body but can flare up into shingles in people with a weakened immune system due to age, stress or poor health.

Symptoms include nerve pain and a blistering skin rash. The researchers suggest that reactivation of the virus can spread to the arteries, which pushes up the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The link between shingles and heart problems was found by British researchers, who studied 106 000 shingles sufferers and 213 200 people of a similar age who did not have shingles. Records from a GP database were reviewed for an average of six years after diagnosis, up to 24 years. The study, published in the online issue of the journal Neurology, took into account traditional risk factors such as obesity, smoking and high cholesterol.

Study author Dr Judith Breuer, from University College London, said: “Anyone with shingles, and especially younger people, should be screened for stroke risk factors.” - Daily Mail

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