Does the Flu Increase Your Risk of Heart Attack?
The results of a new study published in the
New England Journal of Medicine show that people with the flu are six times more likely to suffer a heart
attack in the week after being diagnosed.
So how is the flu connected to heart attacks?
“Your body is under a lot of stress when you have the flu. Inflammation,
lower levels of oxygen and a drop in blood pressure can lead to a cardiac
event,” explains Dr. Lance LaMotte, Interventional Cardiologist
at Baton Rouge Cardiology Center. “As cardiologists, we constantly
tell patients about the importance of knowing your numbers and understanding
your risk. This is a good example of why. If you know you’re at
risk for heart disease, it’s more important than ever to get your
The study analyzed 20,000 flu infections in adults 35 and over. The results
showed that in the week after a flu diagnosis, the number of heart attacks
in flu patients jumped significantly. The risk may be slightly higher
for older adults, patients with influenza B infections, and those experiencing
their first heart attack. 76 percent of the patients who experienced a
heart attack after the flu had not received a flu shot.
Although some people skip their flu shot, LaMotte emphasizes its importance
– even if you’ve already had the flu this season. He also
encourages patients to continue to practice preventive measures like thorough
It’s important to be aware of common warning signs of heart attacks,
- Chest pain, discomfort or fullness
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of heartburn or indigestion
- Jaw, neck and arm pain (especially among women)
If you experience signs of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Learn more about heart attack symptoms
* Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario