Flu season is upon us, and many experts agree that it has yet to reach its peak. This poses many dangers especially for the most vulnerable members of our communities including children, those with compromised immune systems and senior citizens.

The Flu and Heart Attacks

As if the flu was not bad enough as a standalone illness, researchers have recently discovered that having the flu impacts heart health in senior citizens. Specifically, the flu is linked to an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack.

What the Research Says

A recent Canadian study found that people who have the flu are six times more likely to experience a heart attack a week after being diagnosed than they are a year before or a year after the virus hits. More than 20,000 cases were evaluated. Highly specific laboratory measures were used to confirm that the subjects did indeed have the flu, and 364 confirmed cases of hospitalizations for a heart attack were discovered as part of the study. The conclusion was that a specific association between respiratory infections and specifically influenza and acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks) exists.


Looking further at the subjects who experienced both the flu and a heart attack, Dr. Jeff Kwong noted that about 75-percent of the individuals were over the age of 65. About 25-percent had experienced at least one other heart attack. About 31-percent of the patients who had a heart attack were not vaccinated against influenza. Dr. Kwong did note that the last finding needs a bit more research before concluding that any correlation exists between not vaccinating and experiencing a heart attack.

While the influenza vaccination is not 100-percent effective, seniors and those with compromised immune systems are encouraged to speak to their doctors about the importance of annual immunization. It is now later in the flu season. However, many experts agree it is not too late to get vaccinated. Additionally, taking other precautions to avoid getting the flu helps to keep seniors safe and not only protect them from the flu but also possibly heart attacks.

Wash Hands Often

Frequent hand washing kills germs and is an effective way to help prevent the flu. Using regular soap, wash hands for at least 20-seconds. Singing happy birthday twice is a good way to know when 20-seconds have passed. In between washings, hand sanitizer is also useful, but it is not a replacement for using soap and water.


Moderate exercise, as appropriate, boosts the immune system and helps seniors to fight back against the flu. Walking or seated chair stretches are both good options to consider. Exercising just 20-minutes, a few days a week is recommended. Seniors are encouraged to speak with their doctor’s before beginning an exercise program and have the right level of support from family, friends, or professional caregivers as necessary.

Keep Hands Away from Mouth, Nose and Eyes

Touching the face is an ideal way for the flu virus to enter the body. To reduce chances of getting sick, minimize this. It is also a good idea to wash your hands before touching your face whenever possible.


From the home environment to mobile devices, use regular cleaning measures to keep surfaces sanitized. Lysol wipes or a bleach and water solution are excellent options. Pay special attention to door knobs, light switches and countertops for maximum effectiveness.

Consume a Healthy Diet and Plenty of Water

Liquids, especially water, help to keep nasal passages clear and moist. Drinking plenty of water can help keep you healthy. Also, eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins to ensure an adequate intake of important vitamins and minerals. This boosts the immune system.

Stay Away from People

While this tip seems obvious, it is worth repeating – stay away from anyone who is sick. Even when you believe people are healthy, avoid hand shaking and hugs during cold and flu season. Minimize how often you spend time in crowds as the flu virus is airborne.

The flu is a serious health condition, and all seniors are encouraged to do what they can to stay safe from it. If you do get sick, see your doctor immediately for a diagnosis and treatment. In more severe cases, having the support of an in home care provider is often helpful. Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley is here to assist seniors diagnosed with the flu with short-term in home care and in home health care. With our assistance, recovery is often easier and faster. Stay healthy this cold and flu season. If we can help, just let us know.

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