May 27, 2018
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Why a Yearly Flu Shot Can Protect Your Heart

The newest tool for preventing heart attack is a flu shot!Between 10% to 20% of people catch the flu annually, and a bad case can be deadly for individuals with coronary heart disease. Yet only one in three adults with cardiovascular disease gets an annual flu shot.

People with heart disease are not only at higher risk for flu than the general population but also are more likely to have a severe case and to develop complications such as viral or bacterial pneumonia. What's more, the flu can worsen coronary heart disease and trigger a heart attack.

No one is absolutely sure how the flu increases the risk of a heart attack. One possibility is that the inflammation associated with the flu can trigger the rupture of unstable plaque, leading to the formation of a blood clot that could cause a heart attack.

The strongest evidence for protection from a flu shot in people with heart disease comes from the Flu Vaccination in Acute Coronary Syndromes (FLUVACS) study. In that study, some 300 individuals who had been hospitalized for either a heart attack or a planned angioplasty were randomly assigned to receive a flu vaccine or remain unvaccinated. Over the next year, twice as many of the unvaccinated group (23%) died of heart disease, had a nonfatal heart attack, or developed severe ischemia (insufficient blood supply to the heart tissue), compared with those who were vaccinated (11%).

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a flu shot with the same enthusiasm as it does the control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and other modifiable risk factors for heart attacks. In a scientific advisory issued by the AHA and the American College of Cardiology heart doctors were asked to do something they may not normally do - give their patients flu shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued extensive recommendations pertaining to those individuals who should obtain flu shots. Go to our Home Page and click on Flu Alert for full details.

Besides getting a flu shot, two other simple measures - frequent hand washing (see Hand Washing 101) and, if possible, avoiding close contact with a flu sufferer - can help reduce the risk of catching the flu.

Source: Johns Hokins Health Alerts


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