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HPV May Be Linked to Heart Attack, Stroke in Women

Study Suggests Vaccine for Human Papillomavirus Could One Day Help Prevent Heart Disease
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Can a Shot Prevent Heart Disease?

Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, is "floored" by the new findings. She is the director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.  "Those who had the cancer-causing HPV strain had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, without any of the other traditional risk factors being present."

This may help identify a new high-risk group, she says. About 20% of people with heart disease don't have any traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

The study "sheds a new light on the assessment and risk factor analysis of heart disease in women, many of whom have HPV, and lends a new direction into the understanding of who is at risk for heart disease and therefore another means for us to prevent it," she says.

Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health and the Women's Heart Program at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, urges caution in interpreting the new findings.

"It would be groundbreaking, but we are so early on in the process," she says.

"If this is eventually proven to be a real risk for heart disease, it will be a way to identify younger women who are at risk," she says.

But it is a big leap to say that the HPV shot could protect women from heart attack and strokes. "HPV causes cervical cancer. In terms of cardiovascular disease risk, there may be a connection, but we are not there yet," she says.

There are things that women can do today that we know will lower their risk for heart attack or stroke, she says. These include quitting smoking, making sure their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body weight are within the normal range, and engaging in regular physical activity.

"We can't let people forget about the other risk factors," she says.

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