People with heart disease have a harder time coping with the flu than people without heart disease. This is because the influenza virus produces significant stress on the cardiovascular system – breathing difficulty, changes in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and even direct effects on the heart – that make this illness particularly difficult and even dangerous for anyone who has heart disease.
That’s why I went for my flu vaccine this morning at my local health clinic. In fact, I had two flu shots today, one in each arm: one for the pandemic H1N1 influenza, and one for Influenza A&B, the ‘normal’ seasonal flu. I was assessed as a high priority flu shot recipient because I’m under the age of 65 with a heart condition – just barely ahead of the NHL’s Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs hockey teams whose players are apparently (who knew?) in a very high risk and high priority group, too, right up there with heart attack survivors.
Whoever we are, getting hit by the flu is no picnic, as described in this love letter from your flu bug:
“I want you.
I shall seek and find you.
I shall take you to bed and have my way with you.
I will make you ache, shake and sweat till you moan and groan.
I will make you beg for mercy.
I will exhaust you to the point that you will be relieved when I’m finished with you, and you will be weak for days.”
All my love,
The strongest evidence for protection from a flu shot in those with heart disease comes from the Flu Vaccination in Acute Coronary Syndromes study. Researchers followed patients who had been hospitalized for either a heart attack or a planned angioplasty, half of whom were randomly assigned to receive a flu vaccine and half remained unvaccinated. Over the next year, twice as many of the unvaccinated group (23%) died of heart disease, had a non-fatal heart attack, or developed severe ischemia (insufficient blood supply to the heart tissue), compared with those who were vaccinated (11%). Continue reading “Should heart patients get the flu vaccine?”