Getting a flu shot can lower your risk for heart problems! Increased blood pressure, blood clots, heart muscle inflammation and heart attacks are risks associated with the flu virus.
Flu Wave Is Just Warming Up
As flu season begins, a flu shot can not only protect you from contracting the virus. It could also protect your heart.
Most people who catch the flu develop only mild symptoms, but some flu illnesses can lead to more severe consequences, especially in people with underlying conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist, told the press, “Even though the flu is a respiratory illness, it can affect the rest of the body – including the heart.” This coincides with a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found a “significant association between respiratory infections, particularly influenza, and acute myocardial infarction.”
Vaccination best protection!
The best protection against the flu and possible serious illness is a flu shot. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 23.4 percent of adults 18 and older have received a flu shot to date. That’s almost as many people, 25.5 percent, who said they would not get vaccinated at all.
The flu shot can affect your heart in four ways
In some cases, the flu can cause blood pressure to rise, increasing the risk of stroke and other health complications. Weinberg explained, “Whenever the body is under stress for a variety of reasons, these reactions can occur.”
She also said that doctors monitor people who already have high blood pressure very closely when they get the flu.
Another risk with flu illness is blood clots. Weinberg explained that the flu can lead to an increase in the body’s proteins, which, if released into the bloodstream, can lead to increased blood clotting. She also points out that “you get less blood flowing when you’re bedridden, and that can lead to more clots forming,” she said.
Cardiac inflammation possible
If you catch the flu, you’re also at risk of heart inflammation, called myocarditis. This can cause chest pain, shortness of breath and palpitations. The biggest risk is that the flu virus will enter the heart tissue directly, said Amesh A. Adjala, senior scientist at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Finally, there is research linking the flu to heart attacks. In the Annals of Internal Medicine, it was found that in a study of nearly 90,000 adults hospitalized with flu, nearly 12 percent of patients suffered from serious heart complications such as a heart attack.
At a time when most people are thinking about vaccinations, the flu shot is another way to combat public health risks.
“I think the flu shot is often overlooked. About 45 percent of adults in the U.S. get the flu shot each year. Last flu season (our first season during the COVID-19 pandemic), it was 48 percent, and I hope that percentage will continue to rise this season as vaccines become more accessible and there is a need to prevent these respiratory infections in our communities,” Annette Reagan, PhD assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California Los Angeles, told Well + Good.