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Published on February 22, 2019

Getting a Flu Shot is Especially Important if You Have Heart Disease. Here’s Why.

If you have heart disease, the regular flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from complications of the flu.

Flu Shot Heart Disease

Fever. Sore throat. Cough. Congestion. Nausea.

Flu symptoms are no fun.

The flu shot can help protect you from these nasty symptoms, but if you have heart disease, getting vaccinated can have an even greater impact on your health. The CDC reports that if you have heart disease and get the flu, being vaccinated may reduce your risk for cardiac events such as a heart attack.

The flu is caused by a powerful virus that can make anyone extremely sick. If you have heart disease or another chronic illness, adding the flu on top of the symptoms you already experience can strain your health. According to the CDC, having a chronic illness puts you at high risk for complications caused by the flu, including pneumonia, respiratory problems or a worsening of a chronic illness.

These health complications can be dangerous and may even cause death, which is why getting the flu shot is extremely important if you have heart disease. Here are three more ways that having the flu shot can positively impact your health:

  1. 1. The flu shot may help reduce your risk of heart attack and other heart complications caused by the flu. For heart disease patients, the CDC reports that being vaccinated against the flu is linked with decreased risk of cardiac complications, including heart attack and heart failure.
  2. 2. The flu shot can help reduce your risk of hospitalization from the flu. The CDC estimated that between 2012 and 2015, the flu vaccine helped reduce risk of being admitted to intensive care due to flu complications by 82%.
  3. 3. The flu shot helps reduce the severity of your symptoms if you catch the flu. The flu shot is designed to protect against the most common flu strains each flu season. Immunization will protect you from these strains, but even if you catch a strain that isn’t covered, you may experience milder flu symptoms than if you hadn’t received the flu shot.

If you have heart disease, the regular flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from complications of the flu. The nasal-spray form of the flu vaccine is not recommended if you have heart disease because it may cause flu-like symptoms as a side effect. Before you receive any kind of vaccination, always consult with your health care provider.

In addition to getting vaccinated against the flu, there are other steps you can take to protect yourself from getting sick:

  • Wash your hands. Using plenty of soap and clean water, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep your immune system healthy and strong. Do this by eating a well-rounded diet, exercising often and getting plenty of sleep.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough. Remember to sneeze into your arm rather than your hand to prevent germs from spreading.

If you do get the flu, begin treatment as early as possible and continue to take your regular medications. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider for help so you can start feeling better soon.

About the Author

Mark C. Skains, MDMark C. Skains, MD practices Cardiology and Invasive Cardiology at Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare at Church Street