A new reason for older adults to get the shingles vaccine

Could shingles mean a higher risk of heart disease?

One in three adults will get shingles in their lifetime. Anyone who’s had chickenpox is at risk because shingles is caused by the virus (varicella zoster) that lies dormant in the body after causing chickenpox until it awakens to cause the often-painful rash. 

Scientists tracked 205,000 people for up to 16 years. The risk of stroke was 38 percent higher and the risk of heart disease was 16 percent higher 5 to 8 years after having shingles than in those who never had shingles.

Nine to 12 years after having shingles, stroke risk was 28 percent higher and heart disease risk was 25 percent higher. (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, which makes the shingles vaccine, funded the study.)

What to do

Follow the CDC’s advice to get the shingles vaccine if you’re 50 or older.

This study can’t prove that shingles causes stroke or heart disease. (Something else about vaccine takers may lower their risk.) But it’s one more reason to avoid the pain of shingles.

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