Flu and heart attacks: What you should know

a heart in hands

When diagnosed with the flu, patients could be more concerned with breaking their fever or stopping a hacking cough, so their heart might not be top of mind.

dr sibin zacharias
Dr. Sibin Zacharias
But according to a study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, a flu diagnosis can increase one's risk of heart attack by as much as a factor of six a week after the diagnosis when compared to the year before and after the flu diagnosis.

"An influenza infection can put a tremendous amount of stress on the body and cardiovascular system," said Dr. Sibin Zacharias, an interventional cardiologist with McLaren Macomb. "If a patient already has heart disease, such as coronary artery blockages, congestive heart failure, or a weak heart, getting the flu can adversely affect one's health much more than someone who doesn't have heart disease. It is very important to focus on preventative measures, which includes vaccination and hand-washing."

Physicians urge everyone to know the risk factors associated with heart attacks, and should they be experiencing any of those factors to take extra caution against catching the flu.

Heart attack risk factors:
"¢ Smoking
"¢ High blood pressure
"¢ High cholesterol
"¢ Poor diet
"¢ Family history
"¢ Increased age

Flu prevention best practices:
"¢ Avoid contact with those already infected
"¢ Cover coughs and sneezes
"¢ Keep hands away from your face
"¢ Clean and disinfect potentially contaminated areas
"¢ Immediately dispose of all tissues
"¢ Frequent handwashing

To learn more about heart care at McLaren Macomb, visit mclaren.org/macombheart.