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Have Heart Failure? Flu Shot May Save Your Life

MONDAY, Dec. 10, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you have heart failure, a flu shot can truly be a lifesaver, researchers report.

A study of patients in Denmark who were recently diagnosed with heart failure found that a flu shot cut their risk of premature death by 18 percent, compared with not getting a shot.

Annual flu shots also reduced patients’ risk of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular disease by 19 percent, the study found.

“Patients with heart failure are at high risk for illness and death, and studies have suggested that infection with influenza can substantially increase the risk for hospitalizations and death in these patients,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a cardiologist in Los Angeles.

Heart failure means the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently. The condition will likely increase over the next 10 years as the population ages, and for those people, flu can be serious or deadly, the researchers said.

These new findings add to the evidence suggesting that annual flu shots may be of great benefit to patients with heart failure and help to reinforce current recommendations for annual vaccination, said Fonarow, director of the cardiomyopathy center at the University of California, Los Angeles. He didn’t work on the study.

A New York City physician agreed. “This study increases the evidence that a flu shot may be lifesaving,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Flu knocks down your immune system and stresses your body, increasing the risk of pneumonia, bronchitis and heart trouble, said Siegel, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

Blood clots are more likely to form because of flu, and that can lead to a heart attack, Siegel said. “Since flu shots decrease the severity of flu, they directly reduce the risk of heart attack,” he explained.

Flu vaccination also reduces the odds that emphysema, asthma or other chronic conditions will flare up, Siegel added.

Having your shot in September and October, before flu season starts, offers more protection than waiting until November or December, the researchers found. But it’s never too late.

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