In an article published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers report that deaths from heart disease and heart attack are higher during flu season. But getting a flu shot may help lower the risk of dying from heart disease or having a heart attack.
To determine the risk for heart attack and dying from heart disease among those with flu, researchers looked at data from 39 studies conducted between 1932 and 2008.
The studies showed an increase in deaths from heart disease and more heart attacks during flu season. In fact, there were between 35 and 50 percent more deaths due to heart disease during flu season than when flu was not circulating.
However, because these studies were done during several decades, the definitions of heart disease have changed over time. Therefore, the researchers had some difficulty in comparing results across all 39 studies.
Researchers suspect that flu may cause a strong inflammatory response in some people that can trigger events such as a heart attack. This may be particularly true for those who already have a chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
But the studies also showed that getting a flu shot may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease or having a heart attack because it reduces the risk of getting the flu.
Seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu are going around this winter. People who are at risk for heart attack should get a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 flu shot. It could reduce their odds of getting flu, and thereby lower their risk for a heart attack.
The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease get the flu shot, not the nasal spray. The nasal spray uses a live vaccine and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by people with heart disease.
To find a flu clinic near you, visit the American Lung Association's Flu Clinic Locator Site.
In addition to getting flu shots, follow these tips to help keep yourself and others healthy.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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If you think you are having a heart attack, don't let more than five minutes pass. Treatments, including clot-busting drugs, can save your life. But to be most effective, these treatments must be given soon after symptoms begin. That's why experts advise calling 911 within five minutes of experiencing symptoms. Emergency medical personnel can start treating you immediately, even before you get to the hospital.
The first step to getting fast treatment for a heart attack is to know the symptoms: