Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Monday said swine flu infection significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
“If you catch swine flu, you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke,” said DAK President Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
Quoting a Canadian study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Nisar said people who get flu are six times more likely to have a heart attack in the first week of the illness.
“The risk is particularly high among elderly and those with underlying heart conditions,” he said.
“In another study at Columbia University in United States flu increased the odds of having a stroke by nearly 40 percent,” Dr Nisar said.
“The most significant risk occurred in the 15 days following the illness, but patients with flu continued to have elevated risk of stroke for an entire year,” he said.
Dr Nisar said flu causes acute and severe inflammation that builds up fat deposits in the inner walls of blood vessels. These fat deposits dislodge and get stuck in heart or brain, where they block the blood flow.
He added flu activates blood cells and clotting system leading to increased risk of blood clots.
“The number of heart attacks and stroke patients in Kashmir doubles in winter and flu is a major factor,” he informed.
He said the risk is similar to the risk seen for other known risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or smoking.
Dr Nisar said you can prevent many heart attacks and strokes by getting vaccinated against flu.
“Studies have shown people who receive flu shots are 55% less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke,” he said.
“Ideally, people should get vaccine by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season,” Dr Nisar advised.