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Heart Disease Health Center

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Flu Vaccine Cuts Heart Risks

Vaccinations Urged for All With Heart Disease to Cut Deaths
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 17, 2006 (Chicago) -- If you suffer from heart disease, get vaccinated against the flu -- now.

That's the message from doctors who found that people with a buildup of plaque in their arteries are about two-thirds less likely to die, have a heart attack, or need emergency bypass or angioplasty if they get the vaccinated than if they don't.

Andrzej Ciszewski, MD, of the Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw, Poland, presented the findings here at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Of the thousands of presentations at the meeting, this was one of the most important, says AHA president Ray Gibbons MD, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Gibbons notes that only one in three adults with heart disease was vaccinated against the flu in 2005, even though people with heart disease are more likely to die from influenza than patients with any other chronic condition.

Overall, the flu is responsible for 36,000 deaths and 225,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year.

People with cardiovascular disease are particularly vulnerable, Gibbons says, because the flu can exacerbate heart disease symptoms and can lead to conditions like viral or bacterial pneumonia that cause heart disease flare-ups.

"A bout of flu tends to make people with heart disease even sicker and increase the chance of having to go to the emergency room or hospital," he tells WebMD.

Benefits of Annual Vaccinations

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