Home Shingles Shingles increases risk of stroke and heart attack, not dementia

Shingles increases risk of stroke and heart attack, not dementia

stroke, and heart attack risk, shingles, Journal of Neurology, transient ischaemic attack, TIA, stress, inflammation, Dr Judith Breuer, University College London, shingles vaccine
A bout of shingles can increase stroke and heart attack risk

Shingles increases risk of stroke and heart attack years later, according to research but a second study shows no direct link to Dementia. 

The viral infection (Varicella Zoster Virus, or VZV) will cause shingles at some point in 25-30% of adults (1).

Shingles increases risk of stroke and heart attack 

In a 2014 study (2), the Shingles was linked to an increased risk of a stroke (+74 per cent) and a heart attack (+50 per cent) later in life, in people under the age of 40.

Those above the age of 40 were less affected, but shingles did still increase their risk of a heart attack by 10 per cent and of a “mini-stroke” or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) by 15 per centiliter in life.

Researchers studied 106,000 patients with shingles and 213,200 matched non-sufferers.

Scientists believe stress and inflammation may explain the link between shingles and stroke.

Study author Dr Judith Breuer, from University College London, said: “Anyone with shingles, and especially younger people, should be screened for stroke risk factors.

Shingles, no direct ink to Dementia risk

In other research, a large scale review dispelled previous suggestions that Shingles was directly linked to increased dementia risk. Herpes zoster (HZ) is caused by reactivation of the neurotrophic varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The suggestion was that Zoster may contribute to development of dementia through neuroinflammation, cerebral vasculopathy, or direct neural damage, but a review of Danish data (3) from 1997-2017 has completely dispelled this. Following 247,305 people with HZ and 1,235,890 matched general population non-carriers, the HZ group was actually shown to develop LESS dementia – 9.7% to 10.3%.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist noted that, “The London University study included the statement that ‘The shingles vaccine has been shown to reduce the number of cases of shingles by about 50 per cent’. Unfortunately, the research that it does not directly cause dementia, may lower the need for the vaccine”.

In more recent studies Covid vaccines have been shown to reawaken Varicella; and researchers from London University have shown that shingles can reawaken Herpes 1, which can increase dementia risk.


  1. Herpes zoster epidemiology, management, and disease and economic burden in Europe: a multidisciplinary perspective; Robert W. Johnson et al; Ther Adv Vaccines. 2015 Jul; 3(4): 109–120.
  2. Herpes zoster as a risk factor for stroke and TIA: A retrospective cohort study in the UK;
    Judith Breuer, Maud Pacou, Aline Gauthier, et al.
    Neurology 2014;82;206-212 Published Online before print January 2, 2014
  3. Incident Herpes Zoster and Risk of Dementia; Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir Schmidt et al; Neurology August 16, 2022