We are urging people with heart and circulatory disease to get their flu vaccinations as the cold weather takes hold across the UK. This comes after research published in the Lancet suggests flu vaccines can reduce the risk of cardiovascular death in people with coronary heart disease by 24%.
The BHF believes that a bad flu season may have been to blame for increases in deaths in people with heart and circulatory disease in winter 2016/2017. There were an extra 7,400 deaths from heart attacks and strokes between December 2016 and March 2017.
This was supported by a report released by Public Health England, which found that the vaccine offered in 2016/2017 was not as effective as previous years, particularly for those aged 65 and over.
To tackle the problem, this year’s flu vaccine for over 65s is enhanced, and the NHS will also be offering a ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine to all under 65s in at risk groups, which will protect against four strains of flu.
Viral infections like flu put added stress on your body, because it increases the body’s metabolic rate and could affect your blood pressure and heart rate.
There is also evidence that heart attacks happen more often during or immediately after an infection such as flu. BHF-funded research revealed that during three day cold spells, events such as heart attacks and strokes are almost twice as likely as during shorter colder periods.
Additionally, a Canadian study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that older people’s risk of a heart attack was six times higher in the week after having severe flu.
This winter NHS England is rolling out a phased distribution of the enhanced vaccine for over 65s in GP surgeries or pharmacies. This means some people may have their jab later than they would usually. However the advice from NHS England and Public Health England is that it is better to wait to have the flu jab that is more effective for your age group, even if this means having it slightly later in the year.
Our Senior Cardiac Nurse, Maureen Talbot said:
“Getting your flu vaccine really is a no brainer. If you have heart and circulatory disease and don’t get your flu jab, you could be putting yourself at serious risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
“Don’t just brave the cold this winter, brave your flu jab - taking just 5 minutes out of your day could literally save your life.”
Find out more about the flu jab