Researchers say yes
| HealthLine – Acute respiratory infections such as influenza can increase the chances of a heart attack by at least sixfold within a week of getting sick, researchers say.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario say they found a direct correlation between acute respiratory infections — particularly influenza — and acute myocardial infarctions, more commonly known as heart attacks.
Other respiratory infections also elevate the risk of heart attack, the researchers found, although not as much as the flu.
The report confirmed the relationship between the flu and heart problems that medical specialists have been aware of for years.
“This flu season, we’ve seen a significant increase of cardiac ICU patients who are having heart attacks or other heart complications such as heart failure,” Dr. Janet Wei, FACC, a cardiologist in the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, told Healthline.
“Strokes are also three times as likely to occur following the onset of a flu infection,” Wei said, citing a prior NEJM article.
Why the flu causes heart attacks
According to heart doctors, the stress to the body from the flu creates conditions that can bring on a heart attack.
“We appreciate that myocardial infarction is often the result of a systemic process, such as systemic inflammation or a predilection to blood clots,” Dr. Michael Blaha, MPH, director of clinical research at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, told Healthline.
“We know a variety of things — natural disasters, emotional reactions, depression, financial stress, when your soccer team loses… any situation where there is stress — that cause the sympathetic nervous system to ramp up also causes blood pressure to rise. This activation puts you at risk,” Blaha added. Read more.