Recent research published in Neurology shows that having shingles may increase the risk of having a stroke in younger adults. The results of the study show that people ages 18 to 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or transient ischemic attack (TIA) years later than people who had not had shingles. In addition, people over the age of 40 who had shingles were more likely to have a heart attack or TIA, but not a stroke, than those who had not had shingles, according to an American Academy of Neurology (AAN) news release.

The study involved 106,600 people who had shingles and 213,200 people of similar ages who did not have shingles. The research team reviewed the records of the participants for an average of 6 years after the shingles diagnosis and for as long as 24 years for some of the participants. The results of the research indicate that people under the age of 40 were 74% more likely to have a stroke if they had shingles, after adjusting for stroke risk factors such as obesity. However, the numbers were not as large in people over the age of 40.

Specifically, individuals over 40 were only 15% more likely to have a TIA and 10% more likely to have a heart attack if they had shingles. Judith Breuer, MD, author of the study, explains that better screening and treatment for stroke risk factors may explain why older adults are at a lower risk. Breuer explains, “Anyone with shingles, and especially younger people, should be screened for stroke risk factors.”

Breuer adds, “Studies are needed to determine whether vaccination can also reduce the incidence of stroke and heart attack. Current recommendations are that anyone 60 years and older should be vaccinated. The role for vaccination in younger individuals with vascular risk factors needs to be determined.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology