Heart Health

The Surprising Connection Between Flu and Heart Disease

Did you know that something as common and easily treatable as the flu could be connected to the more serious condition of heart disease? It may seem surprising, but swelling and irritation caused by influenza can damage blood vessels and increase your risk for coronary artery disease. Read on to learn more about this not-so-obvious connection between the flu and heart health.
A recent study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario has revealed an alarmingly direct link between acute respiratory infections, particularly influenza, and heart attacks. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), this research highlights a further danger posed by viral illnesses previously thought only to affect our lungs. It also points to how important it is for people to take preventive measures against the flu and other respiratory infections. There's evidence that getting sick with the flu increases your chances of having a heart attack by sixfold within a week of onset.
Why Does the Flu Cause Heart Attacks? 
The body contracts influenza because of a complex inflammatory response in which specific white blood cells convene and allow their protective activities to occur. Such an immune system reaction can cause swelling, pain, or tenderness that one might feel when ill - as well as the increased temperature around joints and lymph nodes. Moreover, these built-up effects may even lead to the formation of clots; this causes high pressure within your arteries while also making them more prone to rupture, resulting in stroke or lack of oxygen supply for heart muscles due to blockage.
The virus can be hazardous for those suffering from cardiac complications by exacerbating pre-existing heart conditions. Pneumonia or respiratory failure resulting from a viral illness may heighten symptoms of existing heart arrhythmia and worsen the effects of cardiovascular disease.
The Effects of Antihistamines and Decongestants on the Heart 
Millions of people stock up on anti-inflammatories and decongestants to help them fight off the common cold and flu. While these drugs are typically safe in recommended dosages, the American Heart Association warns that they can have unwanted effects on the heart. 
Antihistamines and decongestants commonly treat symptoms such as nasal congestion, mild fever, and itchy eyes. But they can be risky for individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. In particular, decongestants can cause an increase in blood pressure or even an irregular heartbeat in some individuals. It is also important to note that using multiple OTC drugs together may result in unintended drug interactions that could worsen existing conditions or lead to other health issues. So if you suffer from any pre-existing medical conditions, you should better consult your doctor before taking any medications. 
Reducing Risk 
Suppose you do not have any underlying conditions but still wish to avoid potential risks. Several alternatives, such as steam inhalation and salt water gargles, can relieve some common cold or flu symptoms. It would be best to remember the following rules: 
  • Washing hands often.
  • Avoiding contact with those who do have symptoms.
  • Eating healthy foods.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Managing stress levels.
It is also essential for those at high risk for cardiovascular diseases - such as obese, diabetic, or smokers - to speak with their physicians about additional measures to prevent infection.
The flu season has just started. As you can see, getting sick with influenza can significantly increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, in addition to all other side effects associated with being ill. So be careful and treat yourself well! Remember to take precautionary steps such as handwashing and avoiding contact with others infected to reduce their chances of contracting this virus.

Respectfully yours,