Human Papillomavirus Can Double Risk of Heart Disease
Prevention of HPV may reduce cardiovascular risk in women.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, affecting at least half of all sexually active people at some time in their lives. There are more than 100 types of HPV, but fortunately, most are considered low-risk, causing only genital warts. However, about 30 types of HPV are considered high-risk and can lead to various types of cancer. In addition, some research has suggested that proteins associated with both low- and high-risk HPV may promote the build-up of plaque in the arteries, increasing risk for heart disease.
To support the small but growing body of research around HPV and heart disease, a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to further investigate this relationship. After analyzing data collected from nearly 2,500 women between 2003 and 2006, researchers found that women with any type of HPV were 2.3 times more likely to develop heart disease, while women with high-risk types of HPV were at even greater risk for heart disease — nearly 3 times more likely to develop heart disease than women with no HPV.
Study findings help stress the importance of prevention of both heart disease and HPV. With a new vaccine that can protect against several types of high- and low-risk HPV, women can greatly reduce their risk for acquiring this potentially serious virus. In turn, sexually active women may also be helping to reduce their risk for heart disease by preventing themselves against HPV. And most importantly, women with and without any types of HPV should continue to take action toward promoting cardiovascular health, as heart disease remains the number-one killer of both men and women nationwide.
Questions for You to Consider
- What vaccines can help prevent HPV?
- Two types of vaccines — Cervarix and Gardasil — are currently available to help protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for girls between the ages of 11 and 12, or for females 13–26 years old who did not get the recommended doses earlier. Gardasil remains the only vaccine that helps protect males against HPV. It can be administered to males between the ages 9 and 26.