New study finds flu can increase heart attack risk
BY MARIA HOERTZ, DO, MPH
Ascension Medical Group, Rhinelander
The flu can cause more than just a fever and aches — for some, it can be dangerous to the heart.
A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that people are six times more likely to have a heart attack during the week after being diagnosed with the flu, compared to the year before or after the infection.
During the flu, a person’s body is under a lot of stress. For example, patients often experience inflammation along with lower blood pressure and oxygen levels, which can lead to an increased risk of forming blood clots.
The study also indicated that baseline risks matter. Most of the patients in the study who had a heart attack while they were fighting the flu were over the age of 65 and had risk factors for heart disease.
Only about 30 percent of the study population had been vaccinated against the flu which is still the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.
Here are also some tips of what not to do during the flu season:
1. Don’t use the nasal spray flu vaccine: Only injectable flu shots are recommended this flu season.
2. Don’t take antibiotics: A virus causes the flu, and only antiviral medications can treat a virus. Antibiotics treat bactaerial infections.
3. Don’t lie down: With symptoms like high fever, aches and chills, resting during the flu is very important, but lying down makes it harder on the lungs. Lying upright will make it easier to clear the lungs.
4. Don’t take a cold shower to reduce fever: Taking a cold shower or ice bath to reduce the flu actually has the opposite effect. Instead, lukewarm water can help break a fever.
5. Don’t go to work: Returning to work with the flu puts those around you at a higher risk of contracting the flu. The CDC recommends that people do not return to work until they have been fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication.
Maria Hoertz, DO, MPH, is a family medicine physician and medical director of primary and specialty care for Ascension Medical Group in Rhinelander. For more information visit ascension.org/wisconsin