Stroke, Heart Attack Risks Up After Shingles Diagnosis in Seniors

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Chance of stroke, myocardial infarction increased most in the first week after diagnosis.
Chance of stroke, myocardial infarction increased most in the first week after diagnosis.

(HealthDay News) -- Stroke risk appears to 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 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 time frame. Average patient age was 80 years, roughly two-thirds were women and about 90% were white. Stroke and MI occurrence were tracked during 5 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 3 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.


  1. Minassian C, Thomas SL, Smeeth L, Douglas I, Brauer R, and Langan SM. Acute Cardiovascular Events after Herpes Zoster: A Self-Controlled Case Series Analysis in Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Older Residents of the United States. PLOS. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001919.

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