Most Australians don’t know it, but they are six times more likely to have a heart attack the week after they have had a bout of influenza.
The Heart Foundation is urging Australians to look after their hearts by getting vaccinated before the flu season starts to peak in June.
New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that almost 5 million Australian adults do not intend to get their flu shot this year
Heart Foundation Manager, Risk Reduction, Natalie Raffoul, said it was not widely known that influenza can trigger a heart attack, or that a flu shot can protect our hearts.
“International studies have found that the influenza vaccine can cut the risk of having a heart attack by up to 45 per cent.
“Catching the flu increases the risk of hospitalisation and death for all Australians but people with heart disease are especially at risk,” Ms Raffoul said.
“If you have heart disease, it is vital that you see your doctor or pharmacist to get a flu shot every year. Getting a case of the flu can cause long-term, irreversible heart problems and can be lifethreatening.”
Acute viral infections can cause a severe inflammatory response as the body fights the infection, which can strain the heart and trigger heart failure or an abnormal heartbeat.
The flu can also destabilise the plaque inside your blood vessels, which can lead to a blockage and a possible heart attack or stroke.
Despite the risk, existing published data reveal that only half of Australians living with chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer and stroke, get their regular flu shot.
Australians can get influenza at any time, but the peak flu season runs from June to September.
“The cross over between influenza season and the current COVID-19 pandemic will make it even more important for vulnerable Australians to get their flu shot in a timely fashion,” Ms Raffoul said.
The Federal Government’s National Immunisation Program provides free vaccines to those most at risk, including people living with heart disease, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those over 65 years.