Heart attack risk heightened after flu diagnosis

Fri, Mar 2, 2018

There seems to be no end in sight for this year’s flu season and that could prove especially dangerous for some people.


More than 80,000 flu cases have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thus far, making this season one of the worst in years.


Common flu symptoms range from fever, cough, sore throat, and stuffy nose, to body aches, headaches, and nausea. While many are doing their part to avoid getting the flu, others should be particularly aware of a potential added health risk the flu carries.


A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine associated getting the flu with an increased risk for a heart attack in the days, or even weeks, after battling the flu.


Just seven days following a flu diagnosis, people with previous heart conditions are six times more likely to have a heart attack, the study says.


The study focused on people who are at risk for heart disease. This includes people who are age 65 or older, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoke, and people with a family history of heart disease.


Researchers suggested two reasons for why the flu increases heart attack risk. The flu causes extra stress on the body, making the heart work harder and resulting in a heart attack. An upper-respiratory infection, such as the flu, can also cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation increases the risk of blood clots forming in the coronary arteries. When a blood clot forms, a heart attack occurs.


Those with heart disease or at risk for heart disease, are strongly encouraged to get the flu shot. Doing so can reduce illness and prevent flu-related hospitalizations. It’s not too late to get the shot. Flu season in Wisconsin lasts through March and sometimes into April.


It’s recommended people wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoid others who are sick, and stay home if feeling sick and exhibiting flu-like symptoms.


It’s also important for people at risk for heart disease to know the signs of a heart attack as flu season continues.


“Common symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and lightheadedness,” says Dr. William Witmer, a cardiologist with Aurora BayCare Cardiology. “It’s also important to talk with your physician if you’re at risk for heart disease. Knowing how to prevent it or manage your symptoms can save your life.”


Witmer also suggests eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking to prevent heart disease.


Dr. William Witmer is a cardiologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. He sees patients in Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay.




About BayCare Clinic

BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in Northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With its 100-plus physicians, BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, serving clinical locations in 13 regional communities. Based in Green Bay, Wis., BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center.


About Aurora BayCare Medical Center

Aurora BayCare Medical Center is a 167-bed, full-service tertiary care hospital located at 2845 Greenbrier Road on Green Bay’s east side. It opened in September 2001 as a joint venture of Aurora Health Care and BayCare Clinic.  Aurora BayCare is committed to creating a better way to provide high quality tertiary healthcare, the latest in medical technology and superior service.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.