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Get a Flu Shot, Protect Your Heart

Flu season is almost upon us. This year, because of the coronavirus, getting a flu vaccination is even more important than in other years. Hospitals are concerned about a flood of both coronavirus patients and flu patients. That could strain staff and resources even more than earlier in the pandemic. If you are age 50 or older, have heart disease or live in a nursing home, the stakes are even higher—and this is true every year, not just in 2020.

According to recent research reported by the American Heart Association, people over age 50 and nursing home residents are considered high-risk groups for getting the flu. People in these groups who get a flu vaccination greatly reduce their risk of heart attack, transient ischemic attack (TIA), cardiac arrest and death.

Influenza can also be very serious or even fatal for people who are living with heart failure. That’s because they are often older than 65 and have compromised circulation and other health issues. An infection such as the flu may make heart failure symptoms even worse. In addition, the stress that a flu infection puts on the body may increase the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

“It’s hard to ignore the positive effect the flu vaccine can have on serious cardiac complications,” says Roshni A. Mandania, B.S., at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso, Texas. Mandania and other researchers looked at the impact of the flu vaccine on cardiovascular outcomes, comparing patients who got vaccinated during hospitalization and those who did not. They found that of more than 7 million high-risk patients, the adults age 50 and over who were vaccinated had better outcomes during their hospital stay. They had a 28% lower risk of heart attack, a 47% lower risk of TIA, an 85% lower risk of cardiac arrest, and a 73% lower risk of death.

When to get your flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says we should get our flu vaccinations by the end of October. And keep in mind that it can take about two weeks for the antibodies to build up protection.

This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Ask your doctor about the timing and type of flu vaccine that’s best for you.

Categories: Heart Health