Can the Flu Trigger a Heart Attack?

Can the Flu Trigger a Heart Attack?

Do you usually get a flu vaccine? If not, we can give you a compelling reason to change your habits. The shot can do more than protect you from the flu. It may also prevent a heart attack.

Yogesh Paliwal, MD, and our team at Indus Cardiology are honored to provide preventive cardiology services that keep your heart healthy and support a healthy lifestyle. One crucial part of preventive heart care is getting a yearly flu shot. Here’s why.

Yes, the flu can trigger a heart attack

There’s no doubt that having the flu increases your chance of having a heart attack. Adults are six times more likely to have a heart attack within one week of being diagnosed with the flu.

One in eight adults hospitalized with the flu had a serious cardiac event. Of those, nearly one-third were treated in the intensive care unit (ICU), and 7% died.

A serious cardiac event includes heart attacks and other conditions that damage your heart, such as acute heart failure and a sudden reduction in blood flow to the heart.

People who didn’t suffer a serious cardiac event had other heart complications, such as myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation) and pericarditis (inflammation around the heart).

While age, smoking, diabetes, kidney disease, and a previously diagnosed heart condition increase your risk of having a flu-triggered heart attack, otherwise healthy adults are also at risk.

How flu causes a heart attack

Seasonal flu is a viral infection that primarily affects your nose and lungs. However, the infection causes inflammation throughout your body, impacting your heart and coronary arteries, increasing blood coagulation (causing clots), raising blood pressure, and lowering blood oxygen.

These changes make your heart work harder, straining and weakening the heart muscles. As the flu makes breathing hard, the respiratory distress adds to the stress on your heart. The stress leads to heart attacks, causes irregular heartbeats, and worsens existing conditions like heart failure.

If you already have clogged coronary arteries (atherosclerosis), the additional inflammation caused by the viral infection can make the fatty plaque rupture. Pieces of the plaque may get stuck in the artery, causing a heart attack by stopping blood flow.

Clogged arteries lower the blood supply to your heart, and the flu further decreases the oxygen supply. Their combined effect spells trouble for your heart, possibly leading to a heart attack.

Flu triggers all these events, putting excessive stress on your heart and increasing your risk for a heart attack.

Preventing flu-induced heart problems

The best way to protect yourself from a flu-induced heart attack is to prevent the flu, and that means getting a seasonal flu vaccination. 

Getting the shot can lower your risk of a heart attack by 36% to 50%. And if you get sick despite being vaccinated, having the shot significantly reduces your risk of being hospitalized or going to the ICU.

You can take other steps to lower your risk of getting the flu and to avoid spreading the virus, including:

Staying as healthy as possible with good nutrition and regular exercise keeps your immune system strong and helps you fight flu-causing viruses.

We’re available to answer questions about the flu and your heart, recommend steps you can take to stay healthy and provide comprehensive cardiology care. 

Call the nearest Indus Cardiology office to schedule an evaluation and learn about your risk for flu complications. We have three locations in Pomona, Montclair, and West Covina, California.

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