Features November 2009 Issue

Get a Flu Shot and Closely Monitor Your Blood Pressure this Winter

Cold weather tends to raise blood pressure, so be especially careful with outdoor activities, and consider a pneumonia vaccine as well.

If youíre undecided about whether to get a flu shot this winter, consider the findings of a study reported in the October issue of the Lancet: Infectious Diseases. Researchers determined that a vaccination for influenza appears to offer protection against heart attacks in people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD). The findings were based on an analysis of 39 studies. And while there needs to be additional research to determine whether flu vaccines offer some protection to people without CVD, older adults are still advised to get their flu shots, because influenza can trigger an inflammatory response in the body that leads to myriad medical complications. "The evidence is fairly clear that infections with influenza, as well as other viruses and bacteria, can increase the risk of developing a heart attack," says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Adam Grasso, MD, special consultant to Heart Advisor. "This is probably due to the inflammatory reaction in the body which occurs with the onset of these infections. Since atherosclerosis is in part an inflammatory disease, itís likely that the systemwide inflammation during such infections can trigger rupture of cholesterol plaques in the coronary arteries, or in the cerebrovascular vessels, leading to heart attack or stroke. Getting flu vaccination, by helping prevent influenza, appears in some studies to reduce the likelihood of myocardial infarction (heart attack), as well as death from cardiovascular causes."

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