BALTIMORE, Md. (WMAR) - It seems like everywhere you turn, we're surrounded by sick people this season making it tough to avoid the flu.
Dr. Elizabeth Hamilton a primary care physician at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Maryland says taking precautions to avoid the flu can be even more critical for some very vulnerable populations this flu season.
"Now we know that the flu can actually trigger a heart attack," Hamilton said.
A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed a link between the flu and heart attack.
It's a lot of stress on your body when you're that ill, especially if you already have cardiovascular disease, or respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema or COPD.
"When you're ill, it's systemic inflammation and it's inflammation that can cause stable plaque in your artery to rupture and turn into a complete blockage and it's also the whole strain on the respiratory system so your oxygen levels might be too low to support your cardiovascular functioning that could precipitate a heart attack," Hamilton said.
In addition to getting your flu shot, and lots of hand washing when you're forced into an environment surrounded by sick people, Hamilton says there are other things people concerned about the risk for heart attack can also do, know your numbers.
"Cholesterol, blood pressure, your weight, your lifestyle, do you smoke or not, are you exercising? All of those things factor into your overall health and wellness and the end goal is to avoid having a heart attack, that's the number one killer," Hamilton said.