What you should know about the alarmingly common heart complications from a flu infection

You may have heard that the flu is hard on your heart. And that’s absolutely true…

As your body fends off the influenza virus, your heart rate rises and that causes inflammation. A healthy heart can usually handle this, so you recover from the virus unaware that your heart was under any strain. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes people suffer from serious heart complications after recovering from the flu… even fatal heart attacks. But although researchers have known about the connection between the flu and heart trouble for a while, they haven’t known exactly how prevalent it is until now.

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that serious heart complications following the flu are alarmingly common.

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Flu (and COVID) season could be especially hard on your heart

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently looked at health records from more than 80,000 people who were hospitalized with the flu over the course of eight flu seasons, and here’s what they found…

One in eight of them developed serious heart complications. That’s roughly 12 percent. And around 5 percent of those people didn’t have any documented underlying conditions… meaning they weren’t in a high-risk category for cardiac complications. The flu alone was enough to send their hearts into serious danger.

Unfortunately, many of the people who developed heart complications eventually died — 7 percent, to be exact. And about 30 percent of those with heart complications were admitted to the ICU.

This is scary. Especially when you consider that past research shows people 35 and older are six times more likely to have a heart attack during the first week following a flu diagnosis than the year before or the year after. And also, when you consider that this year we won’t only be contending with the flu, we’ll be contending with COVID-19, too, which has been tied to heart complications as well… even in otherwise healthy people.

In fact, in August, a 27-year old basketball player named Michael Ojo died of an apparent heart attack at practice after recovering from COVID. And he’s far from alone. There has been plenty of anecdotal and scientific evidence verifying that the virus can damage the heart and other organs.

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Tips for supporting your immune system and heart this season

Clearly, you’ll want to do everything you can to support your immune system and your heart this flu season. The good thing is, if you’re wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and social distancing to protect yourself from COVID, you’re also significantly reducing your odds of getting the flu.

But even still, make sure you’re doing everything in your power to keep your immune system strong. That includes eating a diet filled with nutritious fruits and veggies and avoiding sugary and highly processed foods. It also includes drinking lots of water, exercising daily, keeping stress levels down and getting plenty of sleep.

If you do get sick, you may also want to avoid certain traditional cold and flu medicines. Past research shows that decongestants (like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) put more stress on your heart and can increase your chances of flu-related heart complications. In fact, people who used NSAIDs during a respiratory infection were three times more likely to have a heart attack. A very recent study also found that traditional cold and flu medicines are less effective for upper respiratory tract infections than something natural and much safer — honey.

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Honey was more effective at reducing cough frequency and severity and even shortened the infection time in people with upper respiratory tract infections better than those popular drugstore cold and flu medicines many people buy.

I also recommend you take a high-quality multivitamin that contains a healthy dose of vitamin C this cold and flu season. Researchers at Oregon State University recently found that older adults who took a multivitamin got over illnesses quicker and had fewer symptoms.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


  1. Study confirms link between influenza, heart complications — EurekAlert!
  2. Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis — BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.
  3. Survived the flu? Don’t let a heart attack follow — Easy Health Options.
  4. How to boost your immune system — Harvard Health Publishing.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.