As a kid, you probably developed chicken pox—a rash all over your body that was incredibly itchy and made you miss several school days. You may think that chicken pox is something that only young children experience, but it can affect seniors too, and when it does, it is known as shingles.
Shingles is far more painful than chicken pox and can increase the risk of health complications among seniors. The good news is that there is a simple vaccine available that lowers your risk of developing it, but unfortunately, many seniors don’t get themselves vaccinated, putting them at risk. Furthermore, there has been an influx of adult chicken pox because many parents aren’t vaccinating their children, which can then reactivate the herpes zoster virus in older adults.
One of those serious complications that can arise as a result of shingles is a greater risk of heart attack. The findings were published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Shingles increases risk of heart attack: Study
The study looked at the Korean population and focused on new cases of shingles, stroke, and heart attack over the course of 10 years. The study looked at just over 520,000 individuals and slightly over 23,000 persons were diagnosed with shingles.
When compared to those without shingles, shingles’ patients had a 59 percent higher risk of heart attack and a 35 percent higher risk of stroke. Their risk of stroke and heart attack was highest within the first five years of shingles diagnosis.
It is estimated that one in three older adults will develop shingles in America. Even if you’ve already experienced shingles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends you get vaccinated because shingles can return. The shingles vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles by half, which is far greater than not being vaccinated.
Complications of shingles
Aside from an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, shingles can contribute to many other health complications as well, including:
- Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a long-lasting pain
- Disseminated zoster, a blistery rash
- Cranial nerve complications, inflammation and pain of the eyes, intense ear pain, inflammation and blockage of blood vessels
- Scarring and skin discoloration
- Bacterial infections
- Muscle weakness of affected area