The Real Danger Behind This Season's Flu

I want you to imagine the following scenario...

Two days ago, the flu hit you hard. You've stayed in bed with fever, chills, body aches, and congestion.

Then your left arm hurts and your jaw starts to ache. The soreness in your chest worsens. You sit up, but feel dizzy.

If you dismiss these as just more flu symptoms, that mistake could kill you. Instead of just the flu, you're now facing a heart attack.

We've suspected for years that the flu increases your risk of heart attack. But most studies only saw an inconsistent association. They also lacked laboratory tests to determine if patients actually had the flu instead of a different viral infection.

That's why a brand-new study published last week caught our attention. The paper, which appeared in the leading journal The New England Journal of Medicine, looked at documented cases of the flu with proper laboratory confirmation. Researchers then looked at these patients over the course of a year prior to their diagnosis of flu and a year after.

What they found is that for the seven-day period after a flu diagnosis, people are six times more likely to suffer a heart attack. That was regardless of any present risk factors for heart disease.

The toll the flu takes on your heart makes it dangerous for people with weak immune systems or any heart disease.

That's extremely important, particularly for people who already have a higher risk of heart attack due to other factors. For instance, one in three adults has high blood pressure... which is one of the key risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Keep in mind, risk factors alone like blood pressure, obesity, and smoking don't determine if you have a heart attack. But the increased risk is still present... and makes it more dangerous should you get the flu.

As we've written before, the increase in inflammation you see during an infection like the flu puts a strain on your heart. It can constrict blood vessels and lead to blockages resulting in heart attacks or strokes.

This year's influenza outbreak is especially bad. We've already seen the deaths of at least 30 children and many more adults. Keep in mind, adult numbers won't appear until later because many older Americans die from flu-related complications like pneumonia.

That's what makes it more important than ever to stay healthy this flu season.

So we've put together...

Six Tips to Protect Yourself From Colds and the Flu

1. Try these two supplements. If I'm feeling a little off during cold and flu season, I usually take some vitamin C pills. The same goes when I'm traveling, because airplanes are breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria.

I take zinc as well whenever I feel a cold starting. The mineral strengthens the body's "T-cells," which fight off invading bacteria and viruses in the body.

Research from Tufts University showed that nursing home residents with the lowest levels of zinc in their blood had that greatest risk of pneumonia. And although I recommend getting zinc from foods like shellfish, nuts, and legumes, older Americans tend to have more trouble absorbing zinc, so many would benefit from additional zinc.

2. Wash your hands well with non-antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soap does not kill more germs than plain soap, plus it contains hormone-altering chemicals like triclosan.
3. Pay attention to your sleep. This time of year can bring problems with insomnia. Make sure you get plenty of good quality sleep to keep your immune system working well.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. Public places like grocery stores, houses of worship, senior centers, and gyms often host tons of bacteria and viruses. Wipe down shared equipment, wash your hands after visiting, and don't touch your face while you're there.
5. Don't skip the exercise. Even though gyms might be full of germs, you can still workout at home or by walking around your neighborhood. Do what I do and get a good 20-minute walk in around lunchtime. It'll help your immune system by improving circulation.

6. Consider the flu shot. Although estimates put the efficacy of this year's vaccine at only 30% in the U.S., having the shot means that even if you get the flu, you'll likely have less severe symptoms. That's crucial for things like fever, which can cause severe damage to those with lower immune systems.

As I've said before, most healthy adults with hearty immune symptoms can fight off the flu. But children, adults over 65, and anyone with an immune disorder should especially consider it. You can watch more about why in our Weekly Update video right here.

Don't sit back and simply hope you don't get sick – get active in protecting yourself today. You'll gain protection from the flu... and possibly a heart attack.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
January 30, 2018