People at risk of heart disease advised to get flu shot
Courtesy: Reuters

People at risk of heart disease advised to get flu shot

Flu shots could help you avoid more than just a sniffle if you have heart disease. People diagnosed with heart disease have been advised to get a flu shot as catching the virus can increase the risk of a fatal cardiac event.

According to a Houston Methodist review published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, getting vaccinated against influenza could reduce the risk of suffering heart problems even if you do not catch the disease.

Despite this, the flu vaccination rate for American adults who are less than 65 years of age and have heart disease is less than 50 per cent, compared to 80 per cent in older adults with the same condition.

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"It seems that younger Americans with high-risk conditions have not gotten the same memo that their older counterparts have received about the importance of getting the influenza vaccine," said Dr Priyanka Bhugra.

"That's dangerous, considering people with heart conditions are particularly vulnerable to influenza-related heart complications, whether they've reached retirement age or not."

It's well-known that catching the flu can lead to significant respiratory problems such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and bacterial infection of the lungs. However, the virus’ effects on the heart have historically been harder to determine.

Yet, recent research has shown that cardiovascular deaths and influenza epidemics spike around the same time and patients are six times more likely to experience a heart attack the week after influenza infection than they are at any point during the year prior or the year after the infection.

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The reason influenza stresses the heart and vascular system so much has to do with the body's inflammatory response to the infection – as your body creates white blood cells to protect you - which can cause swelling, tenderness, pain, weakness and sometimes redness and increased temperature of your joints, muscles and lymph nodes while fighting the disease.

The increased immune activity can also lead to blood clots, elevated blood pressure, and even swelling or scarring within the heart – potentially causing a blockage that cuts off oxygen to the heart or brain and results in heart attacks or strokes, respectively.

(Cover Media/Reuters)

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