Flu and Heart Disease: It’s All in the Numbers

PETALING JAYA, November 25 – Those with heart disease are at a much higher risk of dying from flu-related complications, and it’s time for Malaysians to wake up and take steps to protect themselves from the flu.

In Malaysia, the flu, or better known as the flu, has returned in full force after Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed mid-last year.

This may not have come as a surprise, because the flu is also a contagious respiratory illness like Covid-19.

When restrictions for Covid-19 are relaxed, it gives opportunity for transmission of the flu in the community.

Influenza cases increased in late 2021 and showed an upward trend in 2022, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The flu is often mistakenly mistaken for an illness similar to the common cold and can be dangerous for many people, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.

However, most Malaysians underestimate the importance of flu prevention – vaccination rates remain low and common misconceptions about flu lead to confusion and hesitation to vaccinate.

As a result, many people don’t see the dangerous connection between the flu and heart disease.

Statistically, the risk of dying from the flu is five times greater for those with heart disease and 20 times greater for those with heart and lung disease.

The flu also increases the risk of a first heart attack by 10 times in adults over age 40.

“The effects of the flu are compounded by factors such as increasing age and heart disease,” said Dr. Choo Gim Hooi, consultant cardiologist at Cardiac Vascular Sentral Kuala Lumpur (CVSKL) and board member of the Malaysian National Heart Association.

“This makes the flu a significant threat for Malaysians as statistics show that ischemic heart disease, a term given to heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries, is the leading cause of death in the country, followed by pneumonia, which it is usually a complication of the flu. 🇧🇷

“In addition, our aging population is on an upward trend and older people are more likely to have weakened immune systems and comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.”

The Doctor. Choo said a combination of these factors exponentially increases the risk of flu-related complications, which can be fatal.

Individuals aged 65 and over are classified by the WHO as a high-risk group most likely to have serious illnesses and/or complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and sepsis (a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues) as a result of the flu.

However, many seniors remain unaware of how serious infectious diseases such as the flu can affect them or that they are vulnerable to contracting the flu from contact with their adult children and young grandchildren.

Facts about the flu, age and chronic illness. ― Infographic courtesy of the ‘Flu prevention is an act of love’ campaign

Dr. Choo said that about 85% of all flu-related deaths occur in people age 65 and older.

“While it is unclear how many of these deaths are directly caused by flu, evidence shows that annual flu vaccinations in people aged 50 years and older lead to lower rates of flu hospitalization, admission to intensive care units, related complications. flu and death. 🇧🇷

“This clearly shows that flu vaccines have a protective effect, and Malaysians – especially the elderly – need to be aware that they can act against flu with an annual vaccination.”

To help dispel misconceptions and raise awareness, the “Flu Prevention is an Act of Love” campaign advocates for the importance of annual flu vaccinations as part of a holistic approach to healthy aging.

With the flu hitting older people hardest, the new campaign theme ‘Preventing flu at age 65 and beyond, I do it’, backed by the Ministry of Health, is a call for Malaysia’s aging population to take the necessary steps to preserve their health, independence and quality of life.

These steps are outlined in the campaign’s “7 Keys to Happy, Healthy Aging” which are: eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, getting adequate rest and sleep, having regular health checkups, learning new skills, socializing with loved ones loved ones and get the flu shot to reduce the risk of flu-related complications, hospitalization, and death.

Protect yourself against the flu.  ― Image courtesy of the 'Flu Prevention is an Act of Love' campaign

Protect yourself against the flu. ― Image courtesy of the ‘Flu Prevention is an Act of Love’ campaign

Take the first step and learn more about how to protect vulnerable and high-risk groups, such as seniors, on the “Flu Prevention is an Act of Love” campaign website. Click here for more information.

Flu and Heart Disease: It’s All in the Numbers

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