It’s that time of year again. The flu. For certain people, the flu can be very dangerous. Children, the elderly, people with certain disorders are very susceptible. Can the flu cause heart problems?
Can the Flu Causes Heart Problems
Some susceptible people are :
- People with heart disease
- People with decreased immune systems like HIV and cancer
- Children under 5 Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities
- Native Indians
- People with congestive heart failure
The Flu and Heart Disease
This article will be discussing the impact of the flu on heart disease. Millions of Americans have some form of heart disease.
As you can see, for certain people the flu can be deadly. People with certain medical conditions are more at risk.
These medical conditions are:
- Heart disease
- Neurological conditions
- Blood diseases
- Kidney and liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- People with extreme obesity.
Flu and Heart Disease StudiesWhen there is a bad flu epidemic, the incidences of cardiovascular deaths increase. According to Dr, Selwyn Collins, who was a public health administrator, as far back as 1928, every flu season showed a rise in deaths from cardiac issues. For example, there is a rise in the number of fatal heart attacks during the winter months. Often time, heart attacks are preceded by respiratory infections.
When is the Flu Season?
In the United States, the flu virus is detected year-round. However, the flu season is from October to April. The flu activity peaks in December – January. Can the Flu Causes Heart Problems: Flu Season? The answer is yes.
How Does the Flu Cause Cardiac Death?
Flu breakouts are a major cause of mortality and morbidity. In the United States, the flu account s for more than 120,000 hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 36,000 people die from the respiratory and cardiac problems related to the flu. The all-cause death related to the flu is another 51,000 deaths in the United States.
These deaths are mainly due to the increased aging of the population, and the virus strains are becoming deadlier. According to researchers, the cardiac-flu death toll maybe even higher. This is because doctors may not consider that the “flu” was the trigger for these cardiac events.
According to researchers, the correct estimation of flu deaths is around 90,000.
“The Centers for Disease Control does not know exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year. There are several reasons for this. First, states are not required to report individual seasonal flu cases or deaths of people older than 18 years of age to CDC. Second, seasonal influenza is infrequently listed on death certificates of people who die from flu-related complications”.
Flu Signs and Symptoms
There are differences between the cold and the flu. With the flu the symptoms are:
- Abrupt onset
- The flu last 3-4 days
- The body aches are severe
- Chills, fatigue, and weakness are common
- Sneezing and stuffy nose occurs sometimes with the flu, but it occurs frequently with the cold
- A headache and chest discomfort is common in the flu
The Flu and Congestive Heart Failure
For people who are diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the flu can be very challenging. This is Therefore because the flu affects the lungs. The flu causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a known trigger of heart disease.
People with congestive failure have problems with fluid, especially around the heart. Therefore, it is essential that the lungs are not compromised in a patient with congestive heart failure.
The Flu and Heart Attack
The flu does not directly cause a heart attack. However, the flu causes severe inflammation in the body. When there is inflammation in the body, plaque in the arteries tends to break off. These plaque fragments block the main vessels of the heart and cause heart attacks.
The flu does not cause heart failure; however, it can exacerbate existing congestive heart failure. There are cases where heart failure is caused by viruses, but that is rare.
The Flu and Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be caused by more than 25 germs. Pneumonia in the elderly is caused by bacteria or a virus. The elderly are more susceptible to pneumonia because they have a decreased immune system. Pneumonia along with the flu was the 8th leading cause of death according to the Centers for Disease Control. Regular colds do not cause congestive heart failure.
Vaccinations, Flu and Heart Disease
Research has shown that the influenza vaccination has a protective effect on high-risk populations such as people with heart disease. According to a study, people with heart disease who took the flu vaccine had a 67% reduction in heart attacks.
How Does the Flu Exacerbate Heart Disease Problems?
The flu affects the cardiovascular system in multiple ways. research has shown that when people with atherosclerosis contract the flu, the plaques in the arteries become inflamed. This process causes deposits of fibrin, platelet that sticks together, and clots to form.
This process mimics the changes seen in coronary plaques after someone has had a heart attack. The high heart rate is because of the fever. The high heart rate is not good for an already compromised heart. The flu also causes endothelial dysfunction and increased thickness of the blood.
Often times when patients come into the emergency room, they are dehydrated with low blood pressure. They also present with low oxygen levels in their blood. The flu decreases the protective properties of HDL cholesterol.
Treatments for the Flu
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most effective weapon against the flu is the flu vaccine.
What groups are recommended for the flu vaccine? Routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications. Recommendations regarding the timing of vaccination, considerations for specific populations, the use of specific vaccines, and contraindications and precautions are summarized in the sections that follow.
According to the Centers for Disease Control,
Flu and Vaccinations
- Percent of children aged 6 months to 17 years who received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months: 49.9%
- Percent of adults aged 18-49 who received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months: 31.8%
- Percent of adults aged 50-64 who received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months: 45.2%
- Percent of adults aged 65 and over who received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months: 67.2%
Tamiflu is an antiviral medication that is not available over the counter. Tamiflu is used to treat symptoms caused by the flu. This medication may or may not prevent the flu. However, it will lessen the symptoms.
This is an alternative to Tamiflu. This medication is over the counter.
Natural Herbs to Help the Flu
It is very important to drink fluids, especially water when you have the flu. People lose water when they vomit, have diarrhea, and don’t eat. When you don’t drink enough, your blood pressure will drop and your kidneys will become impaired. It also important to get adequate rest.
My name is Phyllis Robinson MSN, RN. I have been a Registered Nurse for 27 years in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I am passionate about cardiac care and heart disease. I also want this blog to be an educational tool that people can refer to for traditional and alternative treatment. I will blog on heart disorders such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and high cholesterol.
I received my Nursing degree from Baltimore Community College.
I went on to receive my Masters in Nursing from Walden University
I have worked for almost 30 years in Critical Care with a focus on heart health. I am an advocate of preventive healthcare.