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Flu ‘raises heart attack risk’

6th December 2007

Respiratory infections such as flu increase people’s risk of heart attack and stroke, a new study has found.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine believe their study provides evidence that reducing respiratory tract infection could have substantial benefits.

They analysed data from a general practice database, which contains details of about two million patients registered with 500 GPs.

The findings, published today in the online edition of the European Heart Journal, revealed a two-fold risk of both heart attack and stroke in the week following respiratory infection.

This risk, which is not affected by age or gender, reduced over time so that there was little excess risk beyond one month.

“These data add to the growing body of evidence linking respiratory infection with subsequent risk of cardiovascular events,” said lead researcher Tim Clayton.

“However the absolute risk of such an event to an individual with respiratory infection remains low.”

Dr Mike Knapton, director of prevention and care at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, commented: “We recommend that anyone with heart disease has the flu jab. Influenza is a serious infection, particularly in patients with heart disease such as heart failure, and it could even trigger a heart attack.”

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