New studies show how giving a flu jab to heart attack survivors within 72 hours of their brush with death halves the risk of further cardiac arrests
- Heart attack survivors are at increased risk of suffering a major cardiac arrest
- The study says the 12 months after a heart attack is a period of incredible risk
- Prof Naveed Sattar said infection with the flu causes a patient’s blood to thicken
- This increases pressure on the heart and can lead to a possible cardiac event
Anyone who has a heart attack should be given a flu jab within 72 hours – no matter what time of year it is – two major studies have recommended.
Researchers found vaccinating heart disease patients against the winter bug almost halved their chances of dying from a second heart attack in the following 12 months – the period when the risk is greatest.
Professor Naveed Sattar, from Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: ‘Flu puts stress on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease it could tip you over the threshold for a heart attack.
Professor Naveed Sattar, from Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: ‘Flu puts stress on your arteries and makes your blood thicker, so if you have heart disease it could tip you over the threshold for a heart attack’
‘And the risk of it happening again is greatest in the first six to 12 months. This evidence suggests it’s a good idea to not wait until the winter, and get a flu jab straight away.’
Patients who have suffered a heart attack, or are being treated for heart disease, are already advised to get the annual NHS winter flu jab when it becomes available from October onwards. But for some this can mean a wait of months, during which time they are at risk of a second attack. While flu peaks in winter, infections can occur at any time of year. The solution, the studies suggest, is to routinely vaccinate all heart attack patients while they are still recovering in hospital.
Scientists at Orebro University, Sweden, tracked nearly 3,000 heart attack patients from eight countries, including the UK.
Half got a flu jab within three days of hospital admission and the rest a placebo.
Over the following 12 months, cardiac-related deaths in those who had a flu jab were almost 40 per cent lower than in the placebo group.
The second probe, carried out by a research team from Peru, looked at data for more than 4,000 patients and found that flu vaccination slashed the chances of dying from a second heart attack by 47 per cent.
Scientists at Orebro University, Sweden, tracked nearly 3,000 heart attack patients from eight countries, including the UK
Both studies also found similar rates of second heart attacks, suggesting that the jab does not stop them happening but can lessen the damage they do.
Leading UK cardiologists welcomed the idea.
Professor Martin Cowie, consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: ‘This is interesting and could be relatively easy to implement in general practice.’