Could the Flu Increase the Risk of a Heart Attack?

Could the Flu Increase the Risk of a Heart Attack? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

According to a recent study, having the flu and other respiratory viruses could increase the risk of heart attack.

Toronto scientist, Dr. Jeff Kwong, who works for the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), says that his recent study suggests individuals aged 65 and older appear to be at risk of having a heart attack if they have the flu, and should take extra precautionary measures to protect themselves against influenza in the future; adding that there was also an increased risk of heart attack in those with other respiratory issues.

Dr. Kwong’s study looked at 20,000 cases of lab-confirmed influenza and over 300 patients hospitalized due to heart attacks between 2009 and 2014. Of these numbers, 20 patients had a heart attack within 1 week of receiving a flu diagnosis – and at least 31% of those patients had not received flu vaccinations. Dr. Kwong also notes that while not everyone will be at risk of developing a heart attack as a result of the flu, this latest research suggests the flu certainly increase the risk substantially, and that Canadians should do everything they can to avoid serious illness.

While flu vaccines don’t guarantee you won’t ever get the flu, health professionals like Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, says vulnerable patients should take precautions against the flu – which includes getting vaccinated. Those most at risk of developing the flu include younger children with not yet fully developed immune systems and elderly patients with weakened or compromised immune systems. Due to the increase in flu activity this season, Health Canada is urging all Canadians aged 6 months or older to get the flu shot. Flu shot availability depends on the Province you reside in. You can find a list of flu clinics and resources all across Canada by clicking here. ImmunizeBC also offers information on British Columbia-specific clinics, as well as more information on the different types of flu vaccinations and how they work in protecting the body against influenza.

Dr. Ali Ghahary also says it’s important for patients to know the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include chest discomfort (often described as a feeling of pressure, squeezing or fullness, and lasts longer than 5 minutes), shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling nauseous, feeling lightheaded, as well as discomfort in other areas of the body (such as jaw pain or pain in the arms, back, neck and stomach.) If you develop any of these symptoms it’s important that you act fast and call 911 – even if you don’t necessarily think you’re having a heart attack – as a few minutes can be a matter of life or death.