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Heart Disease and the Flu: What You Should Know

As temperatures remain low, encouraging most people to stay indoors, the flu remains at the forefront of our minds. Although you can catch the flu anytime of year, the contagious virus can be especially tricky to avoid during the colder months. For those living with heart disease, the virus can cause complicated health issues.

Sad pug feeling the post-holiday blues

We still have a few weeks left of winter, but remaining vigilant about flu prevention is one

of the best ways you or your loved one can remain healthy and prepared. Here’s what to

know about the flu if you have heart disease.

What is the flu?

Also called influenza, the flu is a type of respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat

and lungs. A virus causes it and is highly contagious. Common symptoms include: 

  • Fever (a temperature of 100.4°F) or above

  • Runny or blocked nose, sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Muscle aches and pain

  • Headaches

  • Extreme tiredness

When does the flu look like WITH heart disease?

If you or your loved one currently live with heart disease, you’re more likely to develop complications from the flu, including pneumonia, bronchitis, lung failure, and heart attack. 

The body’s natural reaction to the flu is an inflammatory response, purposely designed to protect the body against a virus. However, that same, defensive response can also cause blood clots, increased blood pressure and scarring or swelling in the heart. For those living with heart disease, fatty deposits (also known as “plaque”) build up in the arteries. 

And when you consider the added stress a virus puts on the body, the flu can cause the plaque to rupture—resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Furthermore, it can also worsen diabetes, asthma, and other pre-existing conditions. But don’t worry. There are ways to protect your loved one (and their heart) from the flu.

How to avoid the flu

Avoiding other people indoors can be a big ask during the colder months, so we’ve

compiled a few tips that could come in handy. 

  • Get the flu vaccine. One of the best ways to prevent getting the flu is to get an annual vaccine. People with heart disease who are vaccinated against the flu have a 37% less chance of being hospitalized for the flu, and a 50% less chance of having out-of-hospital cardiac arrest for 12 months following the vaccination, according to UCLA Health.

  • Manage your heart health. Maintaining heart health puts you in the best possible position to prevent an infection or recover from the flu faster without further complications. Talk to your care teams about a plan for managing heart disease and keeping your heart healthy. Follow your doctor’s recommended lifestyle changes and take any prescribed medications.

  • Maintain good hygiene. This seems obvious, but don’t underestimate vigilance when it comes to good hygiene. Keep your distance from others to avoid droplets spread through coughing or sneezing. Be sure to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when washing isn’t an option.

Presidio Home Care and Flu Prevention

Illness is common during this time of year — and no one knows that more than Presidio

Home Care Aides. Whether gently reminding your loved one about their medications,

driving them to get a flu vaccine, staying active, or helping them maintain good hygiene,

our team is ready to deliver the supportive services your senior loved one needs. Contact US today to learn more.

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