An attack of shingles at early age could increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack years later, says a study.
Reactivation of chicken pox virus causes shingles that is evidenced by fiery rash and painful blisters. Following an episode of chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body flares up into shingles in people with a weakened immune system due to age, stress or poor health.
In people who had a bout of shingles between the age of 18 and 40, the risk of mild stroke doubled and the chance of having heart attack was increased by 50% more than those who have not had shingles. Research suggests that reactivated virus can spread to the arteries, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
British researchers established the connection between shingles and heart problems. They studied 106,000 shingles sufferers and 213,200 people of a similar age who did not have shingles.
Study author Dr Judith Breuer, from University College London, said: "Anyone with shingles, and especially younger people, should be screened for stroke risk factors. The shingles vaccine has been shown to reduce the number of cases of shingles by about 50 per cent." The researchers are of the opinion that studies are needed to determine if vaccination could also reduce the incidence of stroke and heart attack. However, current recommendations are that anyone aged 60 years and older should be vaccinated.
Researchers advise that patients who've had shingles before the age of 40 might be treated more aggressively to decrease risk of heart attack and stroke, and recommended to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.