Study looks at flu vaccine and heart failure

Heart failure is a chronic disease in which the heart does not pump blood efficiently, being one of the risk factors for other cardiovascular diseases – the biggest cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

To reduce the risk of deaths from this condition, a survey sought to evaluate the action of the flu vaccine as a preventive measure in patients diagnosed with the disease.

The study, released by Circulation magazine in December of this year, was carried out by the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) after 12 years of data collection on more than 134,000 newly diagnosed patients with heart failure.

Over these 12 years, vaccination rates varied from 16% to 52%, on average, with the highest rate recorded in 2009, at 54%.

The results obtained show that the risk of premature death in patients who received the vaccine was 18% lower when compared to patients who were not immunized.

The research also revealed that the annual influenza vaccine also had a positive impact by reducing the risk of death from any cardiovascular disease in 19% of patients.

To have better protection, it is recommended that the vaccine be applied between the months of April and May, to ensure that the patient is more protected during the seasons when the disease is more common (autumn and winter).


But, how does the vaccine help these patients?

The study shows optimistic percentages between the application of the vaccine and a reduction in cardiac complications, but just as important as the statistics is to understand how it happens.

When the heart does not pump blood properly, there is consequently damage or overload to other organs and systems of the body, which is very dangerous for the health of people with heart failure.

With the fragility caused by the disease, the patient becomes even more susceptible to comorbidities.

In this case, the flu is a risk because it weakens the immune system, which makes room for complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis , which can lead the patient to be hospitalized.

In flu-like conditions, there is also a greater chance of blood clots forming, which can cause a heart attack and lead to death.

In this way, the vaccine helps by decreasing the severity of the flu and, indirectly, causes a reduction in the risks of heart disease.

The vaccine is also associated with a lower chance of influenza causing emphysema (presence of air or gas between tissues) or worsening asthma and other chronic diseases.

What should be the frequency and period of vaccination?

In addition to pointing out the flu vaccine as an important option for preventing complications from heart failure, the study shows that the frequency of immunization is also important.

Patients who received the vaccine once a year saw a 13% reduction in the risk of death from any cause, and an 8% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death.

The period in which the vaccination is carried out is also as important as the frequency.

There is a reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease when the vaccine is obtained during the months leading up to the flu season, usually the colder seasons.

Watching for signs of heart failure

As seen, heart failure is the condition where the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently.

The patient can develop this disease due to different risk factors.

The high pressure is one of the possible causes, as it requires the heart to pump more blood, causing organ enlargement to time.

When diagnosed early and treated correctly, the risk of complications is reduced. However, the tendency is that the condition worsens with aging.

For people who do not receive treatment and discover it late, the flu becomes a more serious and even lethal threat.

Thinking about the risk of a late diagnosis, it is essential to say how important it is to maintain a routine of consultations with the cardiologist, in addition to keeping an eye on the symptoms.

Some of the signs that deserve attention are:

  • Tiredness;
  • Swelling in the legs at the end of the day;
  • Night cough;
  • Fatigue;
  • Swelling in the abdomen;
  • Weight variation;
  • Palpitations;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Weakness;
  • Fainting;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Indigestion;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Decreased urine volume or urge to urinate at night;
  • Arrhythmias;
  • Anemia;
  • High fever.

Besides the vaccine, what else reduces the risks?

The vaccine should not be the only care or preventive measure for patients who have heart failure.

It is essential that they also maintain a regular frequency of consultations with the cardiologist.

In addition, they must maintain constant care with food, exercise and the correct use of medications – when prescribed by the doctor.

Another fundamental care is the control of risk factors that can cause or worsen heart failure, such as:

  • Sleep apnea;
  • High pressure;
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD);
  • Heart attack;
  • Diabetes;
  • Congenital cardiovascular diseases (abnormality in the structure or function of the heart due to malformation during pregnancy);
  • Excessive alcohol consumption;
  • Arrhythmia;
  • Viral infection.

To reduce the number of deaths from cardiovascular complications, it is essential that more research on forms of prevention be carried out and disseminated.

In this case, in addition to the vaccine, it is important to have the assistance of a cardiologist and have healthier habits.

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