I have heart disease; how can I avoid catching the flu?

Home stories I have heart disease; how can I avoid catching the flu?

I have heart disease; how can I avoid catching the flu?

If you are someone with a heart condition, you are likely well aware of the risks of stroke and heart attack. Did you know that you are six times more likely to have a heart attack in the week after the flu diagnosis(1)?

The effect of influenza on the heart had historically been hard to determine, as most cardiac events happen during the week or weeks after the flu diagnosis(2)(3) and these cardiac events tend to happen to older adults (over 65 years of age) with preexisting health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure(2). However, several recent studies have shown that this might not be the full picture(3). The new research demonstrates that if you have a heart condition, then you are particularly vulnerable to flu-related complications regardless of your age.

  • One study found that out of 336,000 hospital admissions for the flu, 11.5% of patients experienced a serious cardiovascular event(3)
  • Another study came to a similar conclusion and found that out of 90,000 lab-confirmed flu cases, 11.7% experienced an acute cardiovascular event(3)
  • A third study found that out of the 12.5% of people hospitalised for flu-related cardiac events, 31% required intensive care and 7% died due to the cardiac event(3)

So when you have a heart condition, catching the flu can be no small matter!

What happens when you catch the flu?

When you catch the flu, your body responds by producing white blood cells that convene to fight off the infection. This natural inflammatory response adds stress to your heart and cardiovascular system. The convergence of white blood cells can create a ‘traffic jam’ in parts of your body and lead to high blood pressure, blood clots, and even scarring within your heart(3) . All of these conditions make your arteries more vulnerable and increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack(4)

How to avoid catching the flu

There are many ways to avoid catching the flu, including leading a healthy lifestyle, practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and avoiding close contact with sick people(5). In addition, vaccination is one of the best protective measures against the flu(6). Moreover, adults vaccinated against the flu are 37% less likely to be hospitalised and 82% less likely to be admitted to intensive care because of the flu(3).

With the flu season approaching, it is important to protect yourself from falling ill. As a heart patient, it is vital to consult with both your cardiologist and your GP about the flu and the best ways to reduce stress on your heart and cardiovascular system.

(1) https://www.npr.org/.../aw-seriously-the-flu-can-trigger-a-heart-attack-too
(2) https://www.vaccinestoday.eu/stories/flu-increases-heart-attack-risk/
(3) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/10/211015184212.htm
(4) https://connect.uclahealth.org/2021/12/16/the-connection-between-heart-disease-and-flu/
(5) https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/prevention-and-control/personal-protective-measures
(6) https://flunewseurope.org/SeasonOverview


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