If you have heart disease, you should get an annual flu shot. Studies have shown that death from the flu (influenza) is more common among people with cardiovascular disease than among people with any other chronic condition. Doctors have long recommended that older adults and other high-risk groups get flu shots, but have recently placed more emphasis on the importance of flu shots for those with heart disease. The flu shot could prevent thousands of flu-related complications and deaths every year in people who have heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is estimated to cause more than 36,000 deaths annually in the United States. In addition, it sends 225,000 people to the hospital. The rate of flu-related complications is even higher for people with heart disease.
If you have heart disease, you are at increased risk of complications from the flu including pneumonia, respiratory failure, heart attack and death. Having the flu can also cause dehydration and worsen heart failure, diabetes or asthma. Most scientific evidence indicates that flu shots are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack in people with known cardiovascular disease.
Flu shots are safe for most people who have heart disease. Get your flu vaccine injected by needle, usually in the arm. The flu vaccine that is given by nasal spray isn’t recommended for people with heart disease because it’s made with live virus that can trigger flu like symptoms in people with heart disease.
If you have heart disease, get the flu shot each fall when it becomes available, usually late September through November. However, you can still benefit from getting a flu shot in January or later. That’s because flu season typically peaks in January, February or March.