Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. In several studies, it’s also link to the nation’s leading cause of death cardiovascular disease. There are more than 150 strains of HPV, including the ones responsible for cancers of the cervix, penis, anus and the back of the throat.
In a study publish earlier this year in Circulation Research; so researchers found that Korean women infect with these “high-risk” strains of HPV were 22% more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than women not infect with the virus. The risk was calculate after adjusting for other common cardiovascular risk factors; also including smoking, physical activity and body mass index.

Heart attacks and strokes in women

A 2011 study also connect HPV with heart attacks and strokes in women. “But at this stage, we’re not completely clear on what the link is,” said Dr. Christine Jellis, a cardiologist at The Cleveland Clinic. Jellis said HPV may encourage chronic inflammation in the body; which can contribute to atherosclerosis, or the hardening of fatty plaque along the lining of arteries.
The link between HPV and cardiovascular risk is not restrict to women. A 2017 study of mostly men tied HPV to an increase risk of stroke in people who receive radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. Dr. Tomas Neilan, the lead author of that study publish in the Journal of the American Heart Association, said the results show HPV infection has consequences beyond the cervical lesions and cervical cancer typically associate with the virus.

Specifically, and importantly, this also has implications for men beyond transmission of the virus, said Neilan; who is the director of the cardio-oncology program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. HPV is such a common virus that an estimated 80% of the population will be infect; so at some point in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most infections go away on their own

About 14 million Americans, including teens, become infect with HPV each year. Most infections go away on their own; but those that don’t can lead to certain types of cancer. That’s where prevention can help. HPV vaccines, which have been available for females since 2006 and for males since 2009; so have proven effective in decreasing HPV incidence and preventing precancerous growths or infections.

The CDC recommends all girls and boys get two doses of the vaccine before they turn 13. Children who start the vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday; so need a third dose for complete protection. Jellis hopes to see more research about the HPV connection to cardiovascular disease; also as well as other types of studies that look beyond the factors already known to contribute to heart attacks and strokes.

They certainly see patients who don’t have any of the traditional cardiovascular risks; but they still have atherosclerotic disease,” she said. “So, whether they have additional genetic factors or additional lifestyle factors, for those patients, maybe these other things like a presence of HPV will end up being the reason why they are at higher risk.