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Shingles and stroke risk

Riddle Hospital January 24, 2014 General Wellness

Shingles alone can be a painful experience for patients who have experienced it; pain, burning and tingling skin, blisters, and itching are just a few common symptoms of the condition. Beyond that, it can also put patients at risk for serious health issues like neurological problems, vision loss, and skin infections and, according to new research that may not be all.

In a study published in the online journal Neurology, researchers found that people ages 18 to 40 that had shingles were more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack later in life. However, patients who were over 40 were significantly less likely to suffer from either.

“What’s interesting about this study is that it shows patients who had shingles at a younger age are actually more at risk than the traditional shingles patient, who is typically 65 and older,” Aaron Best, DO, internal medicine physician at Riddle Hospital.

Although the study does not prove a direct cause-and-effect correlation between shingles and an increased risk for heart troubles, Dr. Best says it could be attributed to a number of reasons: inflammation of the blood vessels, a weakened immune system, or other factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. What’s most important, he says, is to communicate your health history to your doctor.

“If you have had shingles in the past, especially at a young age, talk to your doctor about your concerns, and try to take control of additional risk factors for heart attack or stroke. Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly…keep yourself in good health knowing you could be more at risk for cardiovascular events,” he says.

Browse our website to learn more about shingles, or to find a Main Line Health doctor in your area who can help you learn more about your risk for heart attack or stroke.