flu shot and heart disease
flu shot and heart disease

If You Have Heart Disease, Getting Your Flu Shot Is Essential

Posted on October 6, 2022 by Henry Ford Health Staff

It is official, flu season is here. Getting a flu vaccine is your best way avoid getting sick this year, but for some, it is even more strongly recommended. For those who are managing a preexisting heart condition, or recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, a flu shot is critical to avoid the devastating effects a bad case of the flu can have on your body.

“Having a heart condition puts you at elevated risk for heart complications, including death, from influenza,” says Herb Aronow, M.D., MPH, a cardiovascular medicine specialist and for Henry Ford Health. “When your body is actively fighting disease or recovering from a traumatic event like a heart attack, getting the flu can make things decidedly worse.”

How Illness Weakens The Heart

According to the American Heart Association, getting the flu increases your risk for cardiovascular complications due to the body’s natural inflammatory response. In fact, according to this study, one in eight patients that is hospitalized with the flu will also have a cardiovascular complication as a result.

“When you are sick, your body responds by ramping up to fight off the infection,” says Dr. Aronow. In addition to the inflammation that results, the flu can cause your heart to pump harder, your blood pressure to increase and even cause any plaque that’s built up in your arteries to rupture.”

The added stress on your body can directly result in complications including:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Worsening symptoms of other heart diseases
  • Weakening of the heart muscles
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure

Protecting Your Heart From The Flu

The good news? Getting your annual influenza vaccine can actually lower your risk of a cardiovascular episode even in you do catch a mild case of the flu. Research found that in high-risk patients over age 50, those vaccinated against the flu have a 28% lower chance of a heart attack and an 85% lower chance of cardiac arrest.

In addition to getting your flu shot, Dr. Aronow recommends these other tips for keeping your heart healthy this flu season:

  1. Monitor your heart health. If you are living with a heart condition, make sure you are regularly checking in with yourself and working with your cardiologist. Take prescribed medications, make healthy food choices, get plenty of exercise and be aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  2. Avoid people that are sick. The flu isn’t the only illness that can cause cardiovascular complications. Any respiratory virus, including COVID-19, can put you at risk. Avoid direct or close contact with people who are coughing, sneezing or showing signs of other flu-like symptoms.
  3. Practice good hygiene. As always, when viruses are going around, remember to practice proper handwashing often. It is a good idea to make sure you have hand sanitizer as well for when you aren’t able to properly wash with soap and water. Wearing a mask may help reduce your chances of becoming ill as well.
  4. Check in with yourself. If you begin to experience flu-like symptoms, don’t ignore them. Make sure to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. You can also talk with your primary care doctor to see if they recommend any medication to help you recover faster.

In Michigan, cases of the flu tend to spike in early October and again around January or February, so getting your flu shot sooner rather than latest is recommended.

Current Henry Ford Health patients can schedule a flu shot through MyChart. Henry Ford Health is not offering high-dose flu vaccines this year. Learn more.

To find a cardiologist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 844-725-6424 if you are in Detroit or Southeast Michigan or 517-205-1234 if you are in Jackson or South Central Michigan.

Dr. Herb Aronow is the Medical Director of Heart & Vascular Services at Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Categories : FeelWell

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