July 5 (UPI) — Researchers in South Korea have found a link between the shingles virus and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus and anyone who has had the chickenpox in their life may develop the shingles virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime, with the risk increasing with age.
For the study, published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers analyzed 519,880 patients from 2003 to 2013, with 23,233 having the shingles virus.
The study found patients with shingles were more likely to be female and had more common risk factors for heart attack and stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and older age.
The study found the risk of stroke was greatest in patients under 40, and the risk of both heart attack and stroke were highest in the first year after the onset of the virus and decreased over time.
“While these findings require further study into the mechanism that causes shingles patients to have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, it is important that physicians treating these patients make them aware of their increased risk,” Dr. Sung-Han Kim, a physician in the department of infectious diseases at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, said in a press release.
Having shingles raised the risk of a composite of cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke by 41 percent, the risk of stroke by 35 percent and the risk of heart attack alone by 59 percent.