Swine flu increases risk of heart attacks, strokes: DAK

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SRINAGAR: If you catch swine flu, you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, said Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday in a communiqué.

“While people may think of the flu as nothing more than a fever, runny nose or body aches, the consequences could be grave,” said DAK President and flu expert Dr Nisar  ul Hassan.

“Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that heart attack and stroke risk rose sharply among study participants  during the first few days following the illness,” he said.

“A fivefold increase in heart attacks and threefold increase in strokes were reported during the first three days of infection,” he added.

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 the infection 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 flu vaccine is the single best tool to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.“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, even into January or later,” Dr Nisar advised.

He said early use of antiviral therapy against flu can further decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke that are the leading cause of death and disability both for men and women.“Kashmir valley has so far reported 13 deaths due to swine flu which is an underestimate as many cases go unreported,” said DAK President.