It goes without saying that children especially benefit from a yearly flu shot. But there are two flu shot categories that can easily be overlooked each year at as the flu season approaches: women that are pregnant and those individuals suffering from heart disease. And what about the flu shot in the prevention against heart attacks? The relatively cheap and readily available flu shot should be recommended more often as a precaution against heart attacks and strokes. According to the American Heart Association (www.aha.gov), a review of numerous studies suggested that influenza may cause up to 91,000 deaths per year by triggering heart attacks and strokes, much higher than the accepted belief that flu causes only 20,000 deaths per year. Annually, 729,000 deaths result from strokes and heart disease.
If you’re past your 14th week of pregnancy, doctors strongly advise that you be vaccinated against the flu. Whether or not the flu season has kicked in or not isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you get your flu shot. According to research by the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) it takes about two weeks to develop immunity, and women in their second and third trimesters are not only more likely to get the flu, but also to suffer complications (including pneumonia). In fact, they are in the same high-risk category as the elderly or those with heart and lung problems.
The shot’s side effects are minimal, and won’t affect the fetus. At most, you may develop a mild fever and feel more tired than usual for a day or two; chances are you’ll only feel a little soreness in your arm. Some doctors, though, suggest you wait until after your first trimester to get the shot (unless you have asthma). But the vaccine is safe, so if you want to get it, talk to your doctor.
This data suggests influenza may be four times more deadly than previous estimates showed. Studies by other scientists have shown that flu vaccinations reduce heart attack risk by 50 to 67 percent and halve the risk of stroke.
Heart patients and those at risk — such as diabetics and people over age 50 — also need a variety of vegetables and fruits, a regimen of exercise (initially under supervision for most patients), and stress reduction, plus flu shots.
Parallel to this are efforts to raise awareness of the protective effect of vaccinating children to prevent flu and its cardiovascular complications in their parents who have heart disease.
Other prominent cardiovascular watchdog groups likes the European Society of Cardiology, American College of Cardiology and other cardiovascular disease groups are being encouraged to fully adopt current federal flu-shot guidelines that recommend the vaccine to all people older than 50 and everyone with heart disease.
More than 30,000 people die every year of the flu. The sad part is that most of these cases could be prevented. If you are pregnant or suffering from heart disease see you care provider about getting a flu shot as soon as possible.