Shingles increases stroke, myocardial infarction risk in the elderly

Seniors are at an increased risk for stroke or myocardial infarction for up to three months post-shingles diagnosis.
Seniors are at an increased risk for stroke or myocardial infarction for up to three months post-shingles diagnosis.

HealthDay News — The risk for stroke may be more than double in the first week following a shingles diagnosis, with myocardial infarction (MI) risk also climbing, though not by quite as much, according to research published online December 15 in PLOS Medicine.

Caroline Minassian, PhD, a research fellow in the faculty of epidemiology and population health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, and colleagues focused on 42,954 Medicare recipients diagnosed with both shingles and a stroke between 2006 and 2011. Also included were 24,237 shingles patients who experienced MI in the same timeframe. Average patient age was 80 years, roughly two-thirds were women and about 90% were white. Stroke and MI occurrence were tracked during five different periods of time in the year following a shingles diagnosis: week 1; weeks 2 to 4; weeks 5 to 12; weeks 13 to 26; and 6 months.

Compared with patient risk prior to a shingles diagnosis, stroke risk increased for up to three months following a shingles diagnosis. The biggest increase – amounting to more than a two-fold rise in risk – occurred during the first week. That risk dissipated after 6 months, the investigators found. An increase in MI risk followed a similar trajectory, with almost a doubling in risk occurring during the first week following a shingles diagnosis.

The study team said there was no evidence that shingles vaccinations had either prevented or aggravated stroke or MI risk. "However, this finding requires further study due to low vaccine uptake in our study population," Minassian told HealthDay.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to GlaxoSmithKline; the Wellcome Trust partially funded the study.

Reference

Minassian C, Thomas SL, Smeeth L, et al. Acute cardiovascular events after herpes zoster: a self-controlled case series analysis in vaccinated and unvaccinated older residents of the United States. PLoS Med. 2015; doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001919

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