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Senior Heart Health - Are Shingles Related to Cardiac Events?

Oct 15, 2017 by Comfort Keepers Denver

For today’s generation, chickenpox is a thing of the past. It’s something children get immediately vaccinated for, and it’s generally not thought of again.

The same cannot be said for older generations. Many had chickenpox in their younger years, and while many have the attitude that they “got it out of the way” and aren’t in harms way anymore, this is far from the truth.

Shingles are a reality for many adults, especially seniors. Along with being painful and burdensome to your everyday life through its duration, new research shows that shingles may actually increase your risk of serious cardiac issues.

Here’s the breakdown on shingles, this new research, and why it’s important for seniors to get vaccinated:

What Are Shingles?

Herpes zoster, or shingles, is essentially the reactivation of the chickenpox virus in your body, usually in your adult years. It is unclear what causes this reactivation.

The most common symptom of the disease is extremely painful rashes that blister, typically found on the torso. Treatments usually include an antiviral, as well as pain management.

The Study

The research was conducted on 500,000 South Korean patients who had undergone medical check-ups. Of these 500,000, more than 23,000 developed shingles. Risk factors for developing shingles included:

  • High cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Being female

Oddly, those who smoked and drank alcohol less actually had a higher risk for shingles. The same showed for increased exercise levels.

Of these 23,000 shingles patients, the researchers noticed an interesting trend – they had a higher risk for cardiac events than their fellow participants without shingles. More specifically, the risk for stroke increased by 35%, and the risk for a heart attack increased by a whopping 60%.

The cardiac risk was highest during the first year after experiencing the shingles. Additionally, stroke risk was the highest in those under the age of 40.

The scientists were keen to point out that they aren’t sure why exactly shingles increases cardiac risk, and that it is by no means a direct link. Increased cardiac risk can be seen after almost any kind of health issue – having one illness can weaken your immune system and therefore predispose you to other problems.

Why Is This Important For Seniors?

The fact that one in three Americans develops shingles is already startling enough, but what’s worse, over half of these cases involve patients aged 60 or older. This disease disproportionately affects seniors, and can be more devastating on their weaker immune systems.

Preventing Shingle

The best way to treat any serious disease is to prevent it from happening in the first place! This means getting the vaccine.

Preventing chickenpox in the first place is key, which involves two shots. And, regardless of whether you’ve already had chickenpox or not, getting the shingles vaccine is very important – especially for patients 60 or over.

This isn’t to say vaccines guarantee you won’t get sick still, but they’re the best chance we have at avoiding it.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

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