Shingles = Stroke?

On the news yesterday, there was a story about how a university in England (Oxford, perhaps? I can’t quite remember) had discovered that people who had shingles at a young age are 74% more likely to have a stroke and 50% more like to have a heart attack.

74%!

I had shingles as a teenager. They say that 18-40 is the “risk factor zone”. I’m sure that I was younger than 18 when I had them, but I was at least 15 so I don’t know that it puts me out of the woods. They are urging people who had shingles at a young age to get tested for stroke or heart risk factors, including obesity. One more reason for me to lose weight!

Shingles (also known as herpes zoster – ew) is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which remains in your body if you’ve ever had chickenpox. Apparently, since it’s a viral infection, it can spread to the arteries, affecting cardiovascular health.

It flares up when you have a weakened immune system, like if you are older or unhealthy or stressed. I’m no doctor or researcher, but I wonder if obese people have a higher rate of having shingles, if they’re brought on by poor health. (Not saying that all overweight people are in poor health and that all skinny people are in great health, but just in general.) If a young person gets shingles because they’re in poor health because they’re overweight, then if they continue to have poor health for the remainder of their life, being overweight AND having previously had shingles both ups their risk of stroke and heart attack. I imagine that factors in there somewhere.

Either way, scary stuff. One of my maternal uncles had a stroke a few years ago and my dad’s twin sister (she and my dad both suffer from heart issues) had a heart attack a few years ago, both at relatively young ages (early 60s for my uncle, 55 for my aunt). Both of them survived and had no lasting damage but still…scary scary scary.

Just one more reason for me to get healthy!

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