Shingles virus boosts risk for heart attack by 59% in Seoul study

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A large, decade-long study of more than half a million individuals linked a history of shingles with increased risk of stroke and heart attack.

The findings, published in a research letter in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, used a database from South Korea’s National Health Insurance Service to examine 519,880 patients from 2003 to 2013. The team, led by Sung-Han Kim, MD, PhD, with Asan Medical Center in Seoul, identified a cohort of 23,213 patients with shingles and matched them to shingles-free control patients.

In all, a history of shingles raises the risk of a composite cardiovascular events by 41 percent. The risk of stroke jumped up 35 percent, while the risk for heart attack increased 59 percent.

"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," wrote Kim, MD, PhD, et al.

Risks were higher for those patients over 40 years old. Additionally, risks for both stroke and heart attack were higher in the first year following a shingles outbreak.