Last winter, thanks to the prevention measures for Covid-19 and the ‘preponderance’ of the Sars-CoV-2 virus in the circulation of viruses, the flu was almost not seen. But for now there is a fear of a “rekindling” of the flu epidemic (the first signs are already present), with consequent increased risks of complications for the most fragile subjects, not only for age but also for pathological conditions. For this reason, those at cardiovascular risk, who have already had heart attacks or strokes or in any case suffer from decompensation, are reminded to protect themselves with the vaccine, which is also placed at the highest levels in the protection scale according to the European Society of Cardiology.
After a heart attack, you need the flu shot
at Federico Mereta
To further reinforce the call to prevention now comes a sort of summary of the available studies carried out by the Houston Methodist experts coordinated by Priyanka Bhugra, which appeared on the Journal of American Heart Association. Rereading the data, we see how mathematics is totally on the side of vaccination for those at cardiovascular risk. According to the analysis, in fact, vaccination was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events (2.9% versus 4.7%) if the patient still contracted the flu. Among the patients at highest risk and therefore with more active pathology affecting the coronary arteries, whether or not patients hospitalized with acute coronary syndrome were vaccinated, strokes or heart attacks were observed in 9.5% of the population among those who were immunized , versus 19% in the unvaccinated control group.
Deaths are increasing
To further explain the role of ‘fuel’ of viral infection in relation to cardiovascular pathologies, there are also other observations pitted in the survey: first of all, deaths from cardiovascular causes tend to increase precisely in correspondence with influenza epidemics. On the front of the onset of heart attacks and ischemic crises, then, the probability for a heart patient to suffer a heart attack would be almost six times greater in the seven days following the viral infection, compared to the entire previous year. “These data confirm that the flu is a powerful risk factor in relation to the potential increase in heart attacks and strokes – he explains Paolo Bonanni, Professor of Hygiene at the University of Florence. Last year we practically did not suffer the normal flu epidemic, especially for the distancing and individual protection measures, in addition to the lockdown, related to Covid-19. This year we already see respiratory infections not related to Sars-CoV-2: we have already isolated the influenza viruses, cases of respiratory syncytial virus are being observed in different areas.
We fear a possible “rebound effect”: the lack of circulation of the flu last winter may have made many people less “protected” from vaccine immunization or natural infection. So this year we can also expect a sort of “recovery” of the flu infection and vaccination is a fundamental tool for those at greater risk, such as heart patients “.
The flu can trigger cardiovascular events
The flu can act as a propellant to worsen or trigger cardiovascular events in several ways: first of all, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of the inflammatory response that the virus triggers upon entering the body, where it is fought by the defenses. To this can be added different reactions, including stress related to the situation of the body which can also make the plaque present on the arteries more fragile and therefore at greater risk of rupture, with consequent potential blockage to blood circulation. Then there are possible complications to consider, such as overlapping bacterial infections and the consequent tendency to reduce circulating oxygen in the blood: in those who already suffer from heart problems such as heart failure, in these cases, the situation can worsen. Finally, we must not forget that in some cases the virus itself can wedge itself between the cells of the myocardium, inducing myocarditis.
Covid and the heart: this is how the pandemic has put the prevention and treatment of heart disease in crisis
at Federico Mereta