Getting the shingles vaccine may not just protect you from the virus, it can you reduce your stroke risk as well.
That’s the finding of a new study and the reason one Chicago stroke survivor is sharing his story.
Brett Patterson had to learn to use his left arm again and walk again after suffering a stroke in August 2017 at the age of 28.
“I couldn’t feel the left side of my body. That’s when my girlfriend looked at me, saw the facial droop and knew that something was wrong,” Patterson said.
As he spent months in physical therapy, Patterson didn’t know why he suffered a stroke at such a young age until one doctor finally figured it out – a rash that Patterson had been recovering from at the time was shingles.
“The shingles virus traveled up my spinal fluid to my brain and caused a brain bleed on my right side,” Patterson said.
Many people may people not know there is a link between shingles and stroke.
“We know that people that have had shingles are more likely to have a stroke early on after having shingles,” said Dr. Sarah Song, an assistant professor of neurology at Rush University Medical Center.
Dr. Song says experts point to inflammation, but are still looking for the exact link between shingles and stroke.
New research released this month at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference found the shingles vaccine appears to reduce stroke rates. The study found that the shingles vaccine lowers the risk of stroke by about 16% in older adults.
Dr. Song is one of many physicians who are hopeful about the research showing the vaccine's effectiveness, and is looking forward to more data being created.
“I think it’s fascinating and I think they’re doing their diligence to go back and find these associations to direct future research,” Dr. Song said.
While the study looked at people over the age of 66, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the vaccine for people over age 50.
At 31 years old, Brett Patterson wouldn’t qualify.
“I think they should look at it and maybe they should keep reducing the age especially if it works and we know it’s available and if something can help save a life, then absolutely,” Patterson said.
Patterson said he’ll pursue getting the vaccine, if it can prevent another stroke and help him to avoid months of grueling physical therapy.