Flu Complications Increases Risk Of Stroke And Ruptured Arteries

Flu Complications Increases Risk Of Stroke And Ruptured Arteries
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Flu Complications Increases Risk Of Stroke And Ruptured Arteries

Flu Complications Increases Risk Of Stroke And Ruptured Arteries.

Two new Flu can make you deathly ill, but it could also trigger a stroke or a rupture in your neck arteries.

The findings prompted an urgent reminder from the researchers: Getting a flu shot will not only protect you against infection but may also reduce your risk for these serious complications.

The studies both used a database of patient records in New York state to examine whether having flu-like symptoms — such as fever, cough, body aches and fatigue — was tied to an increased risk of either stroke or a condition called “cervical artery dissection” (CAD).

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The latter condition occurs when there is a tear in one of the arteries of the neck, and this tear allows blood to leak into the layers of the artery wall. CAD itself is tied to an increased risk of stroke.

Related: Flu Shot Facts & Side Effects (Updated for 2018-2019)

In the first study, researchers from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons analyzed data from nearly 31,000 people who were hospitalized with an ischemic stroke in 2014. In addition the researchers found that flu can increase your odds for having a stroke by almost 40 percent — and that added risk remains for a full year.

“The risk is highest in the 15 days of influenza and starts to decrease as time goes on,” said lead researcher Amelia Boehme. She’s an assistant professor of epidemiology at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City.

Other studies have found that stroke risk rises after any major infection. It could be that in people who are already at risk for stroke, flu triggers one, Boehme said. But this study did not prove that flu causes stroke risk to rise.

In the second study, researchers from the same institution looked at data from about 3,800 people who had CAD between 2006 and 2014. These patients, the researchers found, were about 50 to 60 percent more likely to have had a flu-like illness in the month before their CAD was diagnosed, compared with the same time period in the years before their CAD diagnosis.

Still, patients need to be closely monitored after having the flu, said Dr. Salman Azhar, director of stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“What’s interesting here is the flu not only increases the risk of stroke, but that the risk is actually a prolonged risk, which goes on for several months,” he said. “People need to get vaccinated.”

Azhar suspects the inflammation that goes along with an infection like flu leaves the body vulnerable to strokes and heart attacks.

(The studies looked at flu-like illness, rather than confirmed flu cases, because people with the flu often do not get their diagnosis officially confirmed with a lab test. This means that, in the health records system, there are many more reported cases of flu-like illness than confirmed flu.)

Both studies will be presented next week at American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019 in Honolulu; neither has been published in a peer-reviewed journal

Still, it’s important to note that the studies only found an association between flu-like symptoms and stroke and CAD, and cannot prove that the flu causes these conditions.

But overall, the findings highlight the importance of getting a flu shot, said Dr. Philip Gorelick, professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Translational Science and Molecular Medicine, who was not involved in the study and has researched stroke prevention.