The Truth About The Flu Vaccine For People with Heart Disease – It’s Critical

I-Got-My-Flu-ShotI’m giving it to you straight. The flu vaccine for people with heart disease is critical.

Please understand, please ignore the naysayers. There is well-researched and documented proof of the validity of this statement.

A paper recently published in the British Medical Journal Heart (an extremely well-respected source), reviewed existing evidence of the flu and cardiovascular risk.

According to the authors, while the flu is linked to a number of cardiovascular complications, data is most consistent when it comes to a heart attack.

A wealth of studies show that heart attack risk is significantly increased within days of contracting the flu, and the risk remains raised for up to a year.

The risk is especially high among patients already diagnosed as having heart disease and/or those at risk of strokes.

The good news is that the flu vaccine helps protect against heart events, reducing the risk of heart attack by 19–45%.

For a clearer perspective, the studies’ authors explain that the flu shot is equally, if not more effective, than other therapies proven to reduce cardiovascular risk.

For example:

  • Quitting smoking reduces risk of heart attack by 32–43%
  • Blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications help lower heart attack risk by up to 25–30%.

And… the flu vaccine helps protect against heart events and cut the risk of heart attack by 19-45%.

The numbers speak for themselves.

The problem is that while quitting smoking and medications are widely used for heart disease management, the flu vaccine is not.

Despite guidelines recommending the flu vaccine for all patients with heart disease, studies show that only 30% of heart disease patients under 65 get the flu shot.

With flu season well on its way, experts once again highlight the importance of the flu shot for those with heart disease.

It should be viewed as an integral part of heart disease

management right along with a healthy lifestyle and medications.

It’s essential, crucial, in light of the staggering statistics on the incidence of heart disease worldwide, that patients and providers change the way they think about the flu shot.

Instead of looking at the vaccine as a means for preventing the flu, we should also begin to view the flu shot as a way to help prevent heart attack—a potentially life-threatening heart event that affects 735,000 Americans each year.

Not convinced?

According to Cardiologist Jacob Udell from Women’s College Hospital, who is also a scientist at the University of Toronto:

“We may have identified that the flu vaccine may also be a vaccine against heart attacks.”

Dr. Udell and colleagues analyzed six studies dating back to the 1940’s about the heart health of more than 6,700 men and women with an average age of 67.

  • Half got a flu vaccine; half got a placebo shot or nothing.

About a third had heart disease and the rest had risk factors such as

 ➡ high blood pressure

➡ high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking.

Their major findings showed that people who had received the flu shot were:

 ➡ About 36% less likely to experience heart disease, stroke, heart failure or death from cardiac-related causes.

 ➡ About 55% less likely to suffer a cardiac event if they had recently experienced a heart attack or stroke.

Per Dr. Udell, “Our study provides solid evidence that the flu shot helps prevent heart disease in vulnerable patients — with the best protection in the highest risk patients.”

How the flu shot helps

Dr. Udell offers several theories.

One is the vulnerable plaque theory:

  • This theory suggests that inflammation caused by the flu “may turn a stable plaque into an unstable plaque and cause a cardiac event.”

Plaque is the result of a buildup in the lining of the arteries of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium, and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood).

Another theory involves the vulnerable patient:

  • It suggests that the side effects from the flu, such as coughing, low oxygen, low blood pressure, fast heart rate and possible pneumonia, may strain the heart and cause a cardiac event.

These studies offer one more good reason to get a flu shot.

  • The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone above the age of six months get the flu vaccine.

In fact, all major health organizations recommend that people with heart disease get the influenza vaccine.

Cardiologist Mariell Jessup, President of The American Heart Association reinforces this recommendation.

We cannot ignore these studies and the need to stay aware of anything and everything that can cut the risk of heart-related complications and death from the flu, a completely preventable event.


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More references:

1. CDC Centers For Disease Control and Prevention; Flu and Heart Disease & Stroke 

2.Texas Heart Institute; Research Shows Flu Can Trigger Heart Attacks 

3. News National; Flu shots may cut the risk of heart attacks, death from heart disease, Canadian research suggests.

4. Mayo Clinic Flu Shots: Especially Important if you have Heart Disease

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