(HealthDay News) – Herpes zoster (HZ) is an independent risk factor for vascular disease, including stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), and myocardial infarction (MI), particularly in those affected before the age of 40 years, according to a study published online Jan. 2 in Neurology.

Judith Breuer, MD, from University College London, and colleagues retrospectively analyzed data in a cohort of 106,601 HZ cases and 213,202 age-, sex-, and general practice-matched controls identified in The Health Improvement Network general practice database. The risks of stroke, TIA, and MI were assessed, after adjustment for vascular risk factors, up to 24 years after occurrence of HZ (median, 6.3 years).

The researchers found that compared with controls, risk factors for vascular disease were significantly increased in HZ cases. In all patients with HZ, adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) for TIA and MI, but not stroke, were increased (aHRs, 1.15 and 1.1, respectively). Among cases whose HZ occurred before age 40 years, stroke, TIA, and MI were all increased (aHRs, 2.42, 1.49, and 1.74, respectively). Compared with older patients, subjects younger than 40 years were significantly less likely to be asked about vascular risk factors (P<0.001).

“HZ is an independent risk factor for vascular disease in the U.K. population, particularly for stroke, TIA, and MI in subjects affected before the age of 40 years,” the authors conclude.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including Sanofi Pasteur, which partially funded the study.

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