According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, each year influenza “kills between 12,000 and 49,000 people and can send as many as 700,000 people to the hospital, it affects so many people that adult cases and deaths can only be estimated.” Statistics indicate that most people who die from the flu are age 65 and over.
If you plan to live past 100 well, as many of us do, it’s important to consider whether to get a yearly flu shot. Getting the flu is no doubt, not the most pleasant experience, but a recent NBC News report offers additional incentives to avoid the flu.
According to a recent Canadian study, one “bout of flu” is enough to raise the risk for heart attack—even days after recovering!
Doctors have suspected for some time that the influenza virus could possibly have negative effects on the heart. Now, researchers have more reason than ever to suspect that the flu could be a direct and indirect killer.
Study on Flu and Heart Attack Risk
The 5-year study involved 332 patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack in Ontario after being diagnosed with the flu. “We found a significant association between respiratory infections, especially influenza, and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack),” wrote the study authors. In fact, the research team reported that people who had the flu, were discovered to have a six times greater risk of heart attack (within 7 days after diagnosis), than those who were not diagnosed with influenza.
According to Dr. Jeff Kwong, study team leader, “Our findings are important because an association between influenza and acute myocardial infarction reinforces the importance of vaccination.”
“People at risk of heart disease should take precautions to prevent respiratory infections, and especially influenza, through measures including vaccinations and handwashing,” Kwong said.
Other viruses were studied for an increase in heart attack risk, but none raised the risk as much as the flu did.
How the Flu Virus Kills
Medical experts report there are several primary reasons that the flu can become deadly, including:
1. Two different germs coexist at the same time, namely bacteria such as strep (this is commonly referred to as a secondary infection).
2. Respiratory symptoms aggravate existing conditions like heart disease or asthma/
3. An overwhelming immune system response, that causes damage to cells in the respiratory tract from the influenza infection, commonly referred to as cytokine storm (a fatal immune system reaction). One theory is that newer viruses (such as the 2009 H1N1 swine flu) are the culprits in killing many more people, because these new viruses stimulate a stronger immune response (which ends up killing more healthy cells in the body).
The Canadian study confirms the importance of getting flu vaccinations for people at risk of heart disease, as well as adults, age 65 and over—particularly those who want to live past 100 well!
Fox, M. (2018, January). Flu virus can cause heart attack. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/flu-virus-can-cause-heart-attacks-n840731
Fox, M. (2018, January). Here’s how the flu virus kills so many people, so quickly. NBC News.