By increasing the likelihood for heart patients to suffer a heart attack, the common flu virus may raise the risk of dying from heart disease. Those who have other risk factors or diabetes may also be at greater risk.
An analysis conducted by a group of British researchers of 39 previous studies of heart patients which was conducted between 1932 and 2008, had results that showed an increase in the number of deaths from heart disease, as well as the occurrence of more heart attacks during flu season.
In fact, this study showed the increased death rate averaged from 35 percent to 50 percent. The report was recently published in the journal Lancet. Experts are urging all heart patients to get vaccinated against regular flu as well as the swine flu, although currently only about one-third of Americans who suffer from heart disease receive flu vaccines.
The possibility of experiencing flu-related medical issues is greater among those having heart-related problems because more flu virus is expected to be circulating during this coming flu season. Dr. Ralph Brindis, vice president of the American College of Cardiology says, “If we can convince cardiac patients to go ahead and get the flu vaccine, that could ultimately save lives.”
Heart patients who contract the flu become more vulnerable to complications because flu viruses can cause inflammation in the body, and most commonly in the lungs, which includes pneumonia along with other types of infection. Flu viruses can certainly cause swelling in the heart or coronary arteries, potentially triggering the breaking off of dangerous clots that can then lead to a heart attack.
According to a recent study by a senior lecturer in infectious disease epidemiology at the University College London Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology,author Andrew Hayward, he proclaims that “We know influenza vaccine is effective in preventing influenza and therefore in theory, ought to be effective in preventing the other complications of influenza.”
Hayward reported that two of the studies in the analysis indicated that heart patients who received a flu vaccine suffered fewer heart attacks than those who did not receive it. He explained that some evidence suggests that heart attacks peak when the flu virus does and acknowledged that “Influenza may be bringing forward an event that might have happened anyway.” It remains unclear as to whether the new study results can be applied to people who have no prior history of heart disease.
The researchers noted that flu viruses could potentially trigger heart attacks among people having risk factors such as being overweight or having high blood pressure. Diabetes is another condition that may put individuals at an even greater risk. The researchers concluded, especially in those people with existing cardiovascular disease, “We believe influenza vaccination should be encouraged wherever indicated. Further proof is needed on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines to reduce the risk of cardiac events in people without established vascular disease.”
Selected by the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services,the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, now highly recommends annual flu vaccines for all people who are at high risk of having serious seasonal flu-related complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious seasonal flu-related complications.
There are about 36,000 people dieing each and every year from flu, while over 200,000 are hospitalized due to complications arising from the flu including bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. These findings are all according to the American Heart Association.