Flu and COVID-19 are spreading: Protect your heart

TUESDAY, Jan. 23, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Influenza and COVID-19 are spreading across the United States (and other parts of the world), posing a particular danger to people at risk for heart disease.

Experts at Mount Sinai Foster Heart Hospital say these respiratory infections can lead to heart complications due to fever, dehydration and inflammation.

Doctors at Mount Sinai are seeing an increase in heart problems caused by respiratory infections, and they’re occurring in all ages, even those in their 20s.

Doctors say this inflammation can cause heart attacks in people with clogged arteries and can also worsen symptoms associated with heart failure or arrhythmias.

“There are many ways winter can increase cardiovascular risk, including flu season,” said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, president of Mount Sinai Foster Heart Hospital.

“People who have cardiovascular disease or multiple risk factors for heart disease are particularly susceptible to heart disease if they become seriously ill from a respiratory infection,” Bart said in a hospital news release. “Identifying and controlling cardiovascular risk factors, as well as trying to prevent Basic infection prevention measures are a way to avoid the potential double whammy of serious infections that can lead to heart disease.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States, and nearly half of adults have some type of heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 700,000 people die from heart disease each year, and eight out of 10 deaths are preventable.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight, smoking and age are all risk factors for heart disease.

Ways to limit your risk of heart disease (and the potential for infections to cause heart problems) include:

Know your family history of heart disease

Track blood pressure, total cholesterol, “good” HDL cholesterol, body mass index and blood sugar levels

eat healthy

Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day

Quitting smoking and e-cigarettes

exercise regularly

Reduce stress and focus on mental health

Learn the warning signs of heart attack and stroke: chest discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, dizziness, and pain in your arms, back, neck, or jaw

“If you get sick and have chest pain or shortness of breath and it gets worse, especially if you have underlying heart disease or risk factors like obesity, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease, don’t assume it’s not a disease at Mount Sinai Health System Dr Icilma Fergus, Director of Cardiovascular Differentials said:

“If you experience symptoms of chest pain, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, consider seeing a health care provider immediately and call 911,” Fergus added.

Fergus recommended people get the flu and COVID vaccines to reduce the severity of infections they might catch.

“Viral syndromes are so common that many people no longer take these viruses seriously,” Fergus said.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more information about the flu and the heart.

Source: Mount Sinai, press release, January 22, 2024

What does this mean to you?

People at risk for heart disease should know that getting the flu or COVID-19 can increase the risk of a heart attack or other heart-related complications.

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