Flu can be serious risk for heart patients - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Flu can be serious risk for heart patients

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You've no doubt heard about the importance of a flu shot for most of us, but Cardiologists say that's especially true if you have heart disease. In addition to the life threatening risks of heart disease, people with it also have a greater chance of developing complications from the flu. Experts say that while we're all obviously at risk of getting the flu, if you have heart disease it makes it harder for the body to fight off the viruses that cause the flu. It's a simple message that could save your life.

Getting the flu obviously isn't a pleasant experience for anyone, but it can be even more problematic for people with heart disease like congestive heart failure or blockage, "The stress the flu causes on the body causes the body to work harder which in turn means the heart has to work harder with can exacerbate or make the syndrome worse."

Dr. Raj Kattar is with ProMedica's Northwest Ohio Cardiology Consultants. He says studies show there are more heart attacks during the peak of flu season. A three year study from 2005-2008 also shows that more than a third of people hospitalized with a confirmed case of the flu had heart disease, "There are higher incidents of ischemic events, ischemic means lack of blood flow to the heart muscle, in patients who have the flu."

You don't have to have a heart condition for the flu to cause problems with your heart, "The flu virus can have direct toxic effects on the heart and it can cause inflammation of the heart muscle. In some cases it can cause the heart muscle to get very weak and some patients develop congestive heart failure that way."

Dr. Kattar says the flu shot has added importance for people with heart disease, "Even though they say people over 65 should get the flu shot, people are not paying attention to the fact that if you have heart disease, the flu shot is key at any age."

February is National Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women here in the United States. 600,000 people will die of it this year alone. Dr. Kattar says be aware of the risk factors including family history, diabetes, high blood pressure , high cholesterol, smoking. He says even having just one of those risk factors elevates your chances of a heart attack.

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