June 13, 2024

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Women four times more likely to die from heart disease if infected with HPV

3 min read

Woman with heart disease

Women are more likely to die of heart disease if they have HPV, a study found (Image: Getty Images)

Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers in the UK, accounting for around a quarter of deaths every year.

It refers to a range of conditions and diseases that affect the heart and circulatory system such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

There are a number of factors that can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease, as well as how severely you experience symptoms. These include your diet, whether you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure and your family history of the disease.

However, new research has revealed that a common virus could significantly raise the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

More specifically, the study found that women infected with a high-risk strain of human papillomavirus (HPV) are four times more likely to die of the disease.

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Woman with chest pain

Women with HPV were also four times more likely to have blocked arteries (Image: Getty)

HPV is a very common infection typically transmitted through sexual contact, and high-risk strains are known to cause cervical cancer.

It is estimated that around eight in 10 people will be infected with HPV at one point in their lives.

Previous research has already suggested that HPV may also contribute to the build-up of dangerous plaque in the arteries.

However, this is the first study to show a link between HPV infection and deaths from cardiovascular disease.

As part of the research, published in the European Heart Journal, scientists studied more than 163,000 young or middle-aged Korean women who had no cardiovascular disease.

The women were given a variety of health screening tests, including cervical screening for 13 high-risk strains of HPV. They returned for health checks every year or two for an average of eight and half years.

As a group of relatively young and healthy women, their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease was generally low (9.1 in 100,000 overall).

But after taking account for other factors that are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women with high-risk HPV had a 3.74 times greater risk of dying from heart disease and a 5.86 times greater risk of dying from a stroke, compared to women who did not have a high-risk HPV infection.

They also had a 3.91 times greater risk of blocked arteries.

And researchers found that the risk was higher still in women who had a high-risk HPV infection and obesity.

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Doctor making vaccination for teen girl

Vaccination rates for HPV have decreased in the UK (Image: Getty)

Professor Hae Suk Cheong from the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine explained: “We know that inflammation plays a pivotal role in the development and progression of cardiovascular disease and viral infections are potential triggers of inflammation.

“HPV is known for its link to cervical cancer, but research is starting to show that this virus can also be found in the bloodstream. It could be that the virus is creating inflammation in the blood vessels, contributing to blocked and damaged arteries and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“This study highlights the importance of comprehensive care for patients with high-risk HPV.

“Clinicians should monitor cardiovascular health in patients with high-risk HPV, particularly those with obesity or other risk factors. It’s important for people with high-risk HPV to be aware of the potential for both heart disease and cervical cancer risks.

“They should engage in regular health screenings and adopt a healthy lifestyle to mitigate their risk of cardiovascular disease.”

This discovery comes after NHS chiefs have urged parents to vaccinate their teens against HPV to help bring down cervical cancer rates.

The jab is offered to school children aged 12 to 13 and anyone under the age of 25 who weren’t vaccinated at school.

However, worrying figures show that HPV jab take up dropped in 2023, with 16.8 percent of girls and 21.4 percent of boys not immunised by the end of school Year 10.

According to the NHS, HPV does not usually cause any symptoms.

“Most people who have it do not realise and do not have any problems,” the health body says.

“But sometimes the virus can cause painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus (genital warts).”

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