Home Health Shingles increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, even after some time

Shingles increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, even after some time

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Shingles increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, even after some time

They certainly weren’t wrong, our elders, when they spoke of Fire of saint Anthony to define herpes zoster virus reactivation. This lesion, destined to occur in almost a third of people and in particular with advancing age and in the presence of diseases or treatments that weaken the immune system, really represents a potentially problematic event to manage. In fact, there is also the risk that its results will be maintained over time. And not just for post-herpetic neuralgia, which can cause severe pain that will persist for months after the rash has disappeared.

There is research that also the cardiovascular system could be “under attack” because inflammation and chronic vascular alterations could be created in the vessels, potentially correlated with a greater risk of cardiovascular events. To confirm this possibility with the force of numbers now comes a research that appeared on Journal of American Heart Associationconducted by experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, coordinated by Sharon Curhan. Rekindling of the virus is associated with a more than 30% increased long-term risk of a serious cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, according to the study.

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Study men and women

To reach this conclusion, the overseas experts examined data from three large population databases, for a total of over 200,000 people of both sexes: the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

None of the subjects followed at the time of the study had a history of stroke or coronary artery disease. Data on the occurrence of shingles flare-up, stroke and coronary heart disease were collected with follow-ups every two years, for up to 16 years of monitoring, to understand whether those who developed shingles were at higher risk of stroke or coronary heart disease years after the outbreak of the virus.

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Monitoring therefore envisaged assessing the appearance of stroke and coronary artery disease, or a heart attack or the need for a procedure to restore blood to the heart, such as angioplasty or surgical by-pass. We also controlled for the combined outcomes of cardiovascular disease.

Zoster ignites inflammation

According to what was reported in the research, those who developed Herpes zoster infection would have a 30% higher long-term risk of a major cardiovascular event than those who had not had viral re-ignition. Above all, however, one fact emerges: the highest risk does not appear limited in time, but is maintained over the years, even for 12 years or more. It must be said that, on the basis of this information, it is not possible to understand whether any vaccination could in some way also influence the cardiovascular risk associated with the infectious disease.

The investigation was carried out even before the vaccines and therefore we cannot yet speak of a certain protective role on the cardiovascular side. Future studies will be needed to understand more even if Curhan herself reports that “we are currently collecting information on vaccinations among our participants and we hope to conduct these studies in the future”.

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Targeted prevention is important

“This American study also confirms the dangers of the “awakening” of the varicella/zoster virus in the population – he explains Michael Conversano, President of the Italian Alliance for Active Aging – Happy Aging. We are not yet certain of the possible protective effect of the vaccine against cerebrovascular events, but we already know very well what the effects of Herpes zoster infection are in the population and we also know that its incidence increases with the increase of age, because adulthood is already a risk factor in itself, due to the decline of the immune response which leads to a greater susceptibility to infections”.

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According to the experts, therefore, it must be remembered that not only age, but also health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, can increase the risk of re-ignition of the infection. “Furthermore, during this pandemic, we have witnessed the reactivation of the Herpes zoster infection in several people who had contracted Covid, a phenomenon that was also more evident in adulthood – concludes Conversano. The National Vaccine Prevention Plan 2017- 2019 introduced the right to free anti-Herpes zoster vaccination for 65-year-olds and people with particular pathologies”.

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