HPV Linked To Heart Attacks, Strokes

High-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) could significantly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women, according to a new study. The research, conducted by the European Society of Cardiology, found that women infected with these particular strains of HPV were up to four times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection, with certain strains known to cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. This new study, however, is the first to establish a link between high-risk HPV infections and heart disease.

The study involved monitoring over 160,000 women from Korea who were free of cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. These women, aged 30 years and older, underwent routine high-risk HPV screening from 2004 to 2018. The average age of the participants was 40.2 years, and 9.2% were found to be infected with high-risk HPV.

During the follow-up period, 134 women died of cardiovascular disease, with 16% of them testing positive for high-risk HPV. After adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers found that the risks of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and death from stroke among infected women were 3.91, 3.74, and 5.86 times higher, respectively, than their uninfected peers.

The link between high-risk HPV infection and death from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease was found to be stronger in obese women than in those of a healthy weight. Lead author Hae Suk Cheong, MD, PhD, MPH, suggested that the virus could be causing inflammation in the blood vessels, contributing to blocked and damaged arteries and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cheong also stressed the importance of monitoring cardiovascular health in patients infected with high-risk HPV, especially those with risk factors such as obesity. He advised people with high-risk HPV to engage in regular health screenings and adopt a healthy lifestyle to mitigate their risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study authors also called for further research to determine whether high-risk HPV infection also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in men. If confirmed, these findings could have significant implications for public health strategies, potentially making HPV vaccination an important strategy in reducing long-term cardiovascular risks.

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