There’s so much to love about the fall season – cooler weather, changing leaves and Halloween. But all these autumn favorites are accompanied by the early arrival of flu season. As we brace ourselves for an increase in stuffy noses and coughing, there’s one key thing everyone should be doing: getting their flu shot.
Even though flu vaccines are the best way to prevent getting sick, it’s still estimated that nearly half of Americans don’t get their flu shot. In part, this may be due to the many common misconceptions, like catching the flu from the vaccine or that you don’t need a shot every year.
However, the fact remains that this year it’s extremely important for everyone 6 months of age and older to get their flu shot. This is especially true for individuals with underlying health conditions, like heart disease.
Can the flu affect heart disease?
Individuals with heart disease aren’t necessarily at a higher risk of catching the flu, but they are far more likely to experience complications as a result of the virus. This can include anything from pneumonia or cardiac complications to respiratory failure even a heart attack.
While the flu primarily affects the respiratory system, it can take a surprising toll on the entire body. One example of this is the increased inflammation caused by the virus, which can affect several parts of the body, including the heart.
In some cases, this inflammation can lead to serious complications, like a heart attack or myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Some studies even found that coming down with the flu could substantially increase the risk of a heart attack in individuals with heart disease (making their risk nearly six times higher).
In addition to being straining and stressful for the heart, the flu can intensify and worsen symptoms of heart disease, namely heart failure and arrhythmias. Plus, due to the complex nature of these conditions, effectively treating flu symptoms can also be difficult.
How can you avoid getting the flu?
The best way to prevent complications from the flu is to avoid it entirely. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do that is with the flu shot. The vaccine is known to be safe and effective for those with heart disease.
In addition to getting your flu shot, remember these simple tips:
- If you don’t feel well or have flu-like symptoms, don’t downplay or ignore your symptoms. Talk with your medical provider.
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Remember to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in your house, car and/or workplace.
- Always wear your mask in public places and avoid close contact with others, especially if they have flu-like symptoms.
Protect Your Heart Health During Flu Season
It’s always important to listen to your heart and stay up-to-date with your health needs – and flu season is no exception. At Georgia Heart Institute, we want to make sure you and your heart receive the careful attention and treatment you need to feel your healthiest. Plus, as the expert that knows you and your heart best, your cardiologist can provide helpful tips to ensure you stay safe and well all flu season long. To request an appointment, call 770-534-2020 or visit heartngmc.org/appointment.