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Flu May Raise Heart Attack Risk

People With Heart Disease Risk Factors Should Get Flu Vaccine, Experts Say
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 18, 2007 -- Flu may make fatal heart attacks or other heart disease deaths more likely, a new study shows.

People at risk for heart disease should get flu vaccinations, write the researchers.

They included Mohammad Madjid, MD, of Houston's University of Texas Health Science Center and Texas Heart Institute.

They studied fatal heart attacks and other heart disease deaths in St. Petersburg, Russia. Less than 3% of St. Petersburg residents got flu shots during the years studied (1993-2000).

St. Petersburg's autopsy records show nearly 12,000 fatal heart attacks and 23,000 heart disease deaths during the study.

Study's Findings, Limits

Fatal heart attacks and other heart disease deaths increased during flu epidemics in St. Petersburg, the researchers report.

That pattern held regardless of sex or age of people at least 50 years old.

But the study, published in the European Heart Journal, doesn't prove that flu caused fatal heart attacks or other heart disease deaths.

For instance, the researchers don't know the medical history, medications, or heart risks of the people who died of heart attacks or other types of heart disease -- or whether those people actually had the flu about the time of death.

Flu Vaccination

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recently recognized the benefit of flu vaccination for cardiovascular patients, note Madjid and colleagues.

The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for the following groups of people:

  • Children aged 6 months to 5 years
  • Pregnant women
  • People at least 50 years old
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Household contacts of people at high risk of flu complications
  • People living with or caring for children less than 6 months old
  • Health care workers

The flu vaccine is also an option for people aged 5-49, notes the CDC.

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