The flu and heart disease

People with heart disease are at risk of developing flu complications and severe infection. Heart disease includes congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and congenital heart disease (heart defect since birth).

People with heart disease are more likely to be hospitalized and often experience worsening of their condition. For example, if you have congestive heart failure, you may find that having the flu may make your symptoms worse - you may have more difficulty breathing or you may notice swollen ankles and fatigue. Unfortunately, people with heart disease are more likely to die of the flu or flu complications than people with any other chronic medical condition.

People with heart disease aren't the only ones who are at high risk for flu complications and severe infection. People with diabetes, asthma, weakened immune systems, and many others with chronic medical conditions are also at risk. Are you at risk for flu complications?

There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from the flu:

  • Wash your hands properly (at least 20 seconds with soap and water) and frequently.
  • Avoid crowds, and stay home if you think you have the flu.
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm (not your hand!).
  • Eat healthy foods and get regular exercise to keep your immune system strong.
  • Get vaccinated. Your doctor may recommend you get the yearly flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Manage your heart disease. Take your medication and follow the treatment plan as recommended by your health care provider.

If you do end up catching the flu, it's important to see your doctor as soon as you notice the first signs of flu symptoms. Don't wait until your symptoms worsen. People with heart disease should see their doctor as soon as possible so that they can begin treatment. Early treatment with antiviral medication can help reduce the risk of flu complications.Talk to your doctor using the Seasonal Flu Doctor Discussion Guide.

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