Catching cold every now and again is par for the course for many people. And most of us get sick without giving it a second thought. Some alarming new science suggests that we should take it more seriously, though. Apparently, respiratory infections may elevate your risk for a heart attack.
The study, published in the Internal Medicine Journal, examined respiratory infection data for 578 patients who were hospitalized due to cardiac arrest. 17% had suffered a respiratory infection seven days or less before they had their heart attack. 21% had a respiratory infection a month or less beforehand.
Geoffrey Tofler, M.D, the study’s lead author, says of the results, “The data showed that the increased risk of a heart attack isn’t necessarily just at the beginning of respiratory symptoms, it peaks in the first 7 days and gradually reduces but remains elevated for one month.”
The risk may be due to the increased blood clotting and inflammation responses the body issues when it’s ill. These factors may lead to blood vessel damage, which increases risk of heart attack.
The overall risk of a cold triggering cardiac arrest are still very low, despite the frightening study results. Are you going to get a heart attack just because you come down with the sniffles? Probably not. But if you’re already in a high-risk category for heart attack, it is probably a good idea to take precautions against getting a respiratory infection.
It is important to be aware of the warning signs of heart attack, as heart disease is still the #1 cause of death in America. It’s also good to be familiar with effective means to reduce you risk factors for getting a cold.
Despite the common belief, taking high doses of Vitamin C does not, actually, ward off colds. It does diminish the severity of the symptoms once you have a cold, but it’s not a preventative medicine.
The other old standby folk cures still hold, though. Make sure you eat healthy, get enough sleep, reduce your stress levels, don’t stand out in the rain for too long, and limit your contact with people who are or might be sick.
This study feeds the germophobe in all of us. But of all the potential risk factors for heart attack, diet, exercise and stress are all much more potent predictors of your likelihood of having one. These lifestyle interventions are all worth undertaking for their own sake, so you might as well.