Flu infection may raise risk of heart attack

The body's under a lot of stress during a bout of flu doctors say. Inflammation is up and oxygen levels and blood pressure can drop. These changes can lead to an increased risk of forming blood clots in the vessels that serve the heart

Heart patients suffer more when they get the flu.

"I was a little bit surprised by the strength of the association". "Six-fold is very high..."

The team at Public Health Ontario in Canada discovered a "significant association" between acute respiratory infections, particularly influenza, and acute myocardial infarction, the medical name for a heart attack.

The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A new study is suggesting that getting the flu raises the risk of having a heart attack.

Kwong and his colleagues used confirmed cases of flu, analyzing 364 heart attacks from mid-2008 through mid-2015 among Ontario residents age 35 or older who were registered with the province's publicly funded health insurance program.

The risk dropped off dramatically by the eighth day after diagnosis.

Previous studies have suggested a link between the flu and heart attacks, but these studies had some important limitations; for example, they did not always confirm that patients had the flu using lab tests, according to the new paper.

The study, done by researchers from the two organizations, comes during what appears to be the peak of this winter's flu season. It can increase inflammation.

The infections can lower blood pressure and thus lower the amount of oxygen in the blood, which forces the heart to compensate by beating faster. It can activate platelets, increasing the chance that blood clots will form in the arteries that serve the heart.

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In total, one third of the heart attacks were fatal.

"What we found is that you're six times more likely to have a heart attack during the week after being diagnosed with influenza, compared with a year before or a year after the infection". Out of that group, 332 were hospitalized for a heart attack within a year.

The researchers found that the risk of heart attacks was somewhat higher for adults over the age of 65, and for patients who were infected with an influenza B strain of the flu, rather than influenza A.

The risk was 10 times higher with influenza B, five times higher with influenza A (the most common type during that period), 3.5 times greater for respiratory syncytial virus and almost three times higher for other viruses.

Dr Kwong added: 'People at risk of heart disease should take precautions to prevent respiratory infections, and especially influenza, through measures including vaccinations and handwashing'.

"Some people who get vaccinated are still going to get influenza", he said.

The flu shot is imperfect: It's no guarantee against infection, and it works better during some flu seasons than others. "Also, wash your hands all the time and stay away from people who you know are sick".

'If you have heart disease, you're more likely to have complications and are at greater risk of becoming more seriously ill from the flu - so it is recommended that you get your annual flu jab if you're eligible. "Chest pains, shortness of breath might be more than you think".

The researchers cautioned that the people in their study were not suffering from mild flu symptoms.

"These findings even applied to those who tested negative for the flu virus or who had cleared the virus".

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