Flu season increases risk for heart attack, stroke

Old man holding breast because of heart infarction (kzenon/MU Health Care) COLUMBIA —

The flu is often associated with symptoms like a cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue, but doctors say it can increase your chances of suffering a heart attack, too.

Cardiologists at University of Missouri Health Care are encouraging patients to get a flu shot with cases of influenza on the rise.

“The flu increases your chances of suffering a heart attack or a stroke because of the increased strain it puts on the body,” said Brian Bostick, MD, a cardiologist at MU Health Care. “Now is a great time to really have your risk factors assessed – your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk for diabetes.”

Bostick says major risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and kidney disease.

If your blood pressure numbers were OK previously, he adds, it may be a good time to check again. In 2017, new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology lowered the threshold for high blood pressure. Down from 140/90, a reading of 130/80 is now considered stage one hypertension.

That change helped drive an increase in the number of Americans with some form of cardiovascular disease to more than 121 million, or nearly half of U.S. adults, according to a new study from the American Heart Association.

According to the study, deaths from cardiovascular disease rose from 2015 to 2016, as well.

Bostick attributes this rise to increased rates of obesity, as well as continued smoking.

“It’s those preventable risk factors, and that’s why going to get your risk factors assessed can really improve your health long term,” said Bostick.

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