If you’re living with a heart disease or are at risk for developing one, you’re probably already aware of the increased risk of heart disease and stroke. But did you know that having a viral infection like the flu can substantially increase the risk of a serious cardiac event?
Heart disease can severely raise your risk of developing complications from the flu; that’s why it is important to have the right preventive care. That includes getting a flu vaccine.
Flu and Heart Disease: Here Are Some Facts You’ve Probably Never Heard:
- About 50% adults hospitalized with flu have a heart disease.
- Patients are six times more likely to suffer a heart attack within a week of a confirmed flu infection.
- A 2020 study that looked at more than 80,000 hospital admissions of flu, found that over the course of eight flu seasons (2010-2018), 1 out of 8 patients faced sudden serious heart complications
Why Does Having Heart Problems Make The Flu Worse?
When you’re down with the flu, your heart health is especially vulnerable because of a series of events brought on by the inflammation caused by the infection. Inflammation raises blood pressure, which pressures the heart. Under this stress, plaque buildup, (a waxy substance that accumulates in the arteries) can weaken and rupture off, forming clots that can clog arteries and lead to a heart attack.
Anyone with an existing heart disease is more likely to develop complications from the flu. These include:
- Lung failure
- Heart attack
How To Protect Yourself From The Flu-Related Heart Issues
By taking the right precautions and preventative steps, you can avoid the dreaded seasonal flu and the list of complications that come with it.
1. Get the flu shot
Getting the seasonal flu shot is not only the best way to protect yourself against the flu but also to lower your risk of having heart attack and stroke. Since influenza viruses constantly mutate, scientists revise the vaccine every year to match the prevalent strands. On an average, vaccines prevent influenza 40% of the time. Flu vaccinations were also found to be more effective in preventing heart attack as compared to taking blood pressure medication or no smoking.
2. Practice good hygiene and avoid contact with sick people
Avoid handshaking and keep your distance from others during flu season to avoid droplets spread through coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands consistently and use a hand sanitizer when washing is not available.
3. Be proactive about your heart health
When you heart health is good, you’re more likely to recover from the flu without serious complications. Take preventative measures and manage your heart disease proactively by taking medications on time, building a good diet and exercising as recommended by your doctor. Talk to your cardiologist and primary care physician about managing your heart condition and keeping your heart healthy. If your heart condition is stable and you end up with the flu, chances are, you’ll experience none or fewer complications.
4. Don’t ignore flu symptoms
Timing is crucial. Especially if you’re a high-risk patient. Get in touch with your primary care provider immediately if you suspect flu-like symptoms. Common symptoms of the flu include:
- Muscle or body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
Dismissing symptoms can delay critical flu treatment.
Remember, the protection provided by flu vaccinations weakens over time, that’s why it’s important to get the flu shot annually.
Suffering from a chronic heart condition? Take a look at our UN-CHRONIC Yourself program.