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Oct 04, 2013

Flu Shots Vital for People with Heart Disease

People with heart disease or who have had a stroke face increased chances of developing serious complications from influenza and influenza-related illnesses.

Having heart disease or stroke increases your chances of developing serious complications if you get the flu, including pneumonia and worsening of your existing heart condition. During the 2012–2013 flu season, 46% of adults hospitalized for flu-related illnesses had heart disease and stroke. And, people with heart disease and stroke who get influenza illnesses are at risk of having a heart-related complication, such as a heart attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even if your heart disease is well-managed, you can still get very sick from the flu and end up in the hospital. Research shows getting a flu vaccine prevents worsening of heart disease.  

CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and best way to protect against the flu. This is a particularly important recommendation if you suffer from heart disease or stroke. Those who live with or care for you should also get vaccinated against the flu. Not only will they be protecting themselves, they’ll also be helping to protect you from the flu, flu-related complications, and an increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or the possible worsening of heart failure symptoms.

Flu vaccine is offered in many convenient locations. You can get a vaccine from your doctor or pharmacist, at local health clinics, at flu clinics at local retail outlets and other public settings. It is best to get vaccinated before the flu starts to spread in your community, however, it is not possible to know exactly when the flu season will start each year. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, influenza activity peaks in January or later most of the time. Please note that you should get the flu shot—not the nasal spray flu vaccine. You can use this vaccine finder tool to find locations offering flu vaccines in your community.

Getting the flu vaccine is a key part of staying healthy this flu season and protecting your heart, just like eating rightexercising and not smoking. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, but it takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection. During that period, you are still vulnerable to flu illness. If you develop flu-like symptoms, you should contact your doctor. Flu symptoms may include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills, and fatigue. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs (like Tamiflu) to treat the flu; antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. Data show antiviral drugs may also prevent serious flu complications. Since these medications are most effective if given within the first 48 hours of flu illness, call your doctor right away if you develop flu-like symptoms. For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

Make sure you speak with your doctor about including vaccines as part of your plan to manage your health. In addition to receiving the flu vaccine every year, you may also need the pneumococcal vaccine to help protect against pneumonia. Ask your doctor about these and other vaccines you need based on your age, health conditions, and vaccination history. Finally, click here to learn more about vaccines which might be right for you.

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