Medicine

Researchers have found a link between flu and heart attack

Researchers have found a link between flu and heart attack

The risk of a heart attack may be increased six-fold within the first week after detection of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection, a new study said Wednesday.

"Our findings, combined with previous evidence that influenza vaccination reduces cardiovascular events and mortality, support worldwide guidelines that advocate for influenza immunization in those at high risk of a heart attack", says Kwong.

The findings come in the midst of a particularly brutal flu season. This is the first time all states in the entire continental USA have reported widespread flu activity during the same week. The most recent figures put the rate at 31.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 Americans, versus only 13.7 per 100,000 two weeks earlier.

The general connection between heart risk and the flu isn't new, which is why physicians recommend that most people get a flu shot.

"People at risk of heart disease should take precautions to prevent respiratory infections, and especially influenza, through measures including vaccinations and handwashing", says Kwong, who notes that previous research had shown the vaccine lowered the risk of other heart-related ailments.

Studies have long shown that flu infection is linked to an increased risk of heart attack in people who are vulnerable.

Dr. Kwong explains that there are several ways that a respiratory infection like the flu can lead to a heart attack.

As well, viral infections cause inflammation, which promotes blood clots forming in the blood vessels that serve the heart, again leading to a heart attack.

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Philippa Hobson, from the British Heart Foundation, said: "There is evidence that heart attacks happen more often during or immediately after an acute inflammatory illness, such as flu". When a plaque breaks apart, it can completely block an artery supplying the heart, causing a heart attack.

A new study reveals a link between the virus and an increased risk of suffering a heart attack.

Researchers looked at 20,000 adults in Canada and found the risk may be higher for older adults, patients with influenza-b infections, and patients who have never had a heart attack. There was one strong pattern: 20 had a heart attack within a week of getting the flu.

Among the 332 people in the study who developed at least one heart attack while recovering from the flu, 69 percent had not received a flu shot.

The team also found that the risk of a heart attack was elevated to a lesser extent after infection with other common respiratory viruses, such as RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.

According to Kwong, the patients likely had severe infections - bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor and lab testing.

"Our findings ... support global guidelines that advocate for influenza immunization in those at high risk of a heart attack", Kwong said.


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