Medics have long been advocating the use of the influenza vaccines as the best way to protect against the seasonal flu that kills thousands of people every year in the U.S. For those who are still not sure if they should get their flu shots, here is another reason to reconsider.
A new study has found that you are six times more likely to have a heart attack in the week after contracting influenza than the year before or afterward.
Researchers have long established the link between influenza and heart attacks. Many influenza viruses can cause inflammation as the body’s normal immune response against the virus. The inflammation can weaken fatty plaques building up in the arteries, causing them to rupture. Some viruses can also cause blood coagulation, causing a blood clot that can result in a heart attack.
“When people get influenza or get the flu, it’s not only just the symptoms that they have, like a cough, fever and an infection in the lungs. It taxes your body and puts a lot of stress on all of the other systems,” Dr. Susan Rehm, an infectious disease specialist, said in a Cleveland Clinic report.
According to the latest study, which evaluated 401 patients who had at least one heart attack in the year before or after the flu bout, 25 out of 419 heart attacks occurred within the first seven days after a flu diagnosis. The study also found that around 35% of patients who had a heart attack died within a year of being diagnosed with the flu.
“Our results endorse strategies to prevent influenza infection, including vaccination. They also advocate for a raised awareness among physicians and hospitalized flu patients for symptoms of heart attacks,” said Dr.Annemarijn de Boer, who led the study.
For the study, researchers used test results from 16 laboratories across The Netherlands, which covered around 40% of the population. In addition to the lab tests, death and hospital records also were used.
“While it isn’t clear from our results if those with less severe flu are also at risk, it is prudent for them to be aware of the link,” Dr. De Boer added.
The results will be presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in April.