Flu can trigger heart attacks
People suffering from the flu have a higher risk of having a heart attack, especially those with pre-existing heart disease and diabetes.
To examine the role of influenza in triggering fatal heart attacks and the efficacy of vaccination at protecting the heart, researchers from Britain reviewed 42 publications containing 39 studies conducted between 1932 and 2008 on the potential links between flu and deaths due to heart attacks.
Many observational studies in different settings with a range of methods reported consistent associations between influenza and acute myocardial infarction. Commonly known as heart attack, acute myocardial infarction is the interruption of blood supply to part of the heart, causing some heart cells to die.
Out of the two small randomised trials, which assessed the protection provided by influenza vaccine against heart attacks in people with existing heart disease, one trial found that influenza vaccination gave significant protection against fatal heart attacks, though the other trial was inconclusive.
All the studies that covered entire populations showed a rise in deaths due to heart disease or heart attacks when influenza viruses were circulating. The proportion of excess influenza deaths that were due to heart disease ranged from 35 percent to 50 percent. Four out of eight studies showed people who were vaccinated from seasonal influenza were less likely to have a heart attack.
Based on these findings, researchers recommend that influenza vaccination should be encouraged wherever indicated, especially in people with existing heart disease.
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