How a flu shot can halve the risk of further heart failure in patients with heart attack

New studies show flu stings in heart attack survivors halve the risk of further heart failure within 72 hours of meeting death

  • Heart attack survivors have an increased risk of major cardiac arrest
  • The study says 12 months after a heart attack is a period of incredible risk
  • Professor Naveed Sattar said that the flu infection causes the patient’s blood to thicken
  • This increases the pressure on the heart and can lead to a possible heart event

Anyone who has a heart attack should get an flu shot within 72 hours – regardless of the time of year – two large studies recommend.

The researchers found that vaccinating patients with heart disease against winter bugs nearly halved their chances of dying from a second heart attack in the next 12 months – the period when the risk is greatest.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘Influenza puts stress on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease it can roll you over the threshold for a heart attack.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the University of Glasgow's Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: 'Influenza puts stress on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease it can knock you over the threshold for a heart attack.'

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: ‘Influenza puts stress on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease it can roll you over the threshold for a heart attack.’

‘And the risk of it happening again is greatest in the first six to 12 months. This evidence suggests that it is a good idea not to wait until winter and get a flu shot right away. ‘

Patients who have suffered a heart attack or are being treated for heart disease are already advised to receive the annual NHS winter vaccine when it becomes available from October onwards. But for some it can mean waiting months, during which they are in danger of another attack. While the peak of the flu is in winter, infections can occur at any time of the year. The solution, according to studies, is to routinely vaccinate all patients with a heart attack while they are still recovering in the hospital.

Researchers at the University of Orebro in Sweden followed nearly 3,000 heart attack patients from eight countries, including the UK.

Half received a flu sting within three days of admission to the hospital, and the rest a placebo.

Over the next 12 months, deaths caused by heart disease in those who had a flu sting were nearly 40 percent lower than in the placebo group.

A second probe, conducted by a Peruvian research team, looked at data for more than 4,000 patients and found that flu vaccination reduced the chances of dying from a second heart attack by 47 percent.

Researchers at the University of Orebro in Sweden followed nearly 3,000 heart attack patients from eight countries, including the UK

Researchers at the University of Orebro in Sweden followed nearly 3,000 heart attack patients from eight countries, including the UK

Both studies also found similar rates of other heart attacks, suggesting that the sting does not prevent their occurrence, but may reduce the damage they do.

Leading British cardiologists welcomed the idea.

Professor Martin Cowie, a consultant cardiologist at Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: ‘This is interesting and could be applied relatively easily in general practice.’

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