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Flu and Heart Disease: Why Getting a Flu Shot Helps Protect Your Heart

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Jul 27, 2022

    Flu and Heart Disease: Why Getting a Flu Shot Helps Protect Your Heart

    The flu is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Known in medical circles as influenza, its incidence is higher in children and younger adults than older individuals, although influenza-associated illness and death increase with age. That is particularly true for people with underlying medical conditions such as chronic heart disease. Recent research reveals a surprising link between heart disease and the flu. And this means the flu shot could be an important part of heart disease prevention.

    Heart Disease and the Flu

    People with heart trouble are more likely to get the flu than people with any other long-term illness. Viral infections like the flu put additional stress on the body. This can, in turn, affect blood pressure, heart rate, and overall heart function.

    The American Heart Association has noted that, for people with cardiovascular disease, getting the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of hospitalization and other major health events, including heart attacks or strokes, and death.

    In 2019, Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association, stated that, “In persons who had heart attacks and strokes, there’s a list of things that we know are must-dos to prevent either a second heart attack or stroke or some other severe complication because of the flu.”

    The Flu Shot as a Preventive Measure

    Once someone has had a stroke or a heart attack, it increases the chances of something even more serious occurring. While all adults and children who can get their flu shot should get immunized annually, Sanchez said that this was particularly true for those with serious health issues.

    “For our patients who have chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, or emphysema, it is critically important to get that flu vaccine because the consequence of the flu with complications is far, far greater for those with chronic diseases,” he said.

    It is important to note that the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, but it is still also the best defense against influenza. For older adults and higher risk groups (including those with heart disease), doctors have recommended that they take the flu shot as another precaution.

    The most widely recognized benefit of the flu vaccine remains the prevention of influenza infection and further cardiovascular complications. In a new hypothesis from 2020, however, an influenza-independent effect is driven by vaccine immunity and modulation of the ongoing immunoinflammatory response in individuals with cardiovascular disease, particularly older individuals.

    Is the Flu Shot Helpful for Those with Heart Disease?

    If you have heart disease, you’re more likely to develop complications from the flu. These complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, lung failure, a heart attack, or in severe cases, death. Having the flu can also make heart failure, diabetes, asthma, or other preexisting conditions worse.

    Researchers continue to actively study the benefits and risks of the yearly flu shot among people with heart disease. Some studies have suggested that flu vaccination lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from a cardiovascular event.

    The flu shot is safe for most people who have heart disease. In light of the global pandemic, getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever. While our focus is on COVID-19, both COVID-19 and the flu are spreading at the same time.

    For people living with or caring for someone who has heart disease, you should also get the flu shot annually. This helps lower the chances of infection for yourself and those around you.

    After suffering from a cardiovascular event like a stroke, the likelihood of something worse happening only increases. By getting a flu shot, you reduce that risk and get the kind of reassurance we all need.

    Learn more about Heart Disease here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Jul 27, 2022

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