Don’t let influenza break your heart

It’s World Heart Day on September 29 and it’s a useful moment to think about heart health. 


 Rosalind Hollingsworth Global Medical Lead, 
Influenza, Sanofi Pasteur

Our hearts beat around 108,000 times a day, pumping five liters of blood a minute around the body.1  With all the work that the heart does, it’s important to take care of it because cardiovascular (CV) disease is extremely common. It remains the single largest cause of death worldwide today.2  Yet 80% of premature heart disease and stroke could be avoided.3 That’s why I try to eat well and exercise regularly. I don’t smoke. I also get my flu vaccine each year, a simple but important part of heart health. 

Are you surprised about the flu shot?  Most people are unaware that flu can raise the risk of having a heart attack. A recent study found that the risk is six times higher in the first seven days after having the flu, and is particularly high in people aged 65 years and older.4  The flu stresses our bodies, including our heart, and there is a considerable inflammatory response that is believed to play an important role in producing such catastrophic events.5,6   

That’s why occasions like World Heart Day are so important.7 Establishing and maintaining healthy heart habits can be challenging, but reminders like this awareness day combined with regular doctor visits can boost our attention and self-care. Even for those of us who may not be at a particularly high risk of developing influenza, it’s a good opportunity to check in with our friends or family members to make sure they get their annual flu shot: the elderly, and those living with diabetes or heart disease. 

While the link between the flu and heart attacks is not as widely known as we would like, recent research from Sanofi Pasteur shows that many cardiologists are familiar with the apparent link between the flu and heart attacks and nearly 7 out of 10 recommend influenza vaccination, which has been associated with a reduction in the risk of heart attack by 15-45 percent.8

It’s fitting then that this awareness day can bring together all of us who personally and professionally advocate for both heart health and influenza prevention. I’m very proud to be a part of a community of people that never tire of spreading the word. There’s much more we can do and I hope you’ll join in.  Please share your stories about why you strive to stay healthy and help protect your hearts from the assails of our environments like influenza. Follow and share with us on twitter and check in with your doctor to learn more. 

References

1 BBC. How much blood does my heart pump in a year. Available at: https://youtu.be/AeG_VZHEqPY  Accessed 20.09.2019.

2 WHO. Fact Sheet. Cardiovascular disease (CVDs). Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/ Accessed 10.07.2019

3 WHO. Cardiovascular Diseases. Data and Statistics. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/cardiovascular-diseases/data-and-statistics Accessed 10.07.2019

4 Kwong, J, et al. (2018) Acute Myocardial Infarction After Laboratory Confirmed Influenza Infection. The New England Journal of Medicine, 378(4):345-353

5 Niroshan Siriwardena, A. (2012) Increasing Evidence That Influenza Is a Trigger for Cardiovascular Disease, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 206(11):1636–1638

6 Madjid, M et al. (2004) Influenza and cardiovascular disease: is there a causal relationship? Texas Heart Institute journal, 31(1):4-13

7 WHF. What is World Heart Day. Available at: https://www.world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/about-whd/ Accessed 10.07.2019

8 Macintyre C. R., Mahimbo A., Moa A. M., & Barnes M. (2016). Influenza vaccine as a coronary intervention for prevention of myocardial infarction. Heart, 102(24), 1953-1956. 

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