They found that 11,892 people died from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) (47.8% men and 52.2% women), and 23,000 died from chronic ischaemic heart disease (IHD) (40.1% men and 59.9% women). The peaks in deaths from both AMI and IHD coincided with the times when influenza epidemics and acute respiratory disease (ARD), which often accompanies flu, were at their height. They found that the chances of dying from AMI increased by a third in epidemic weeks, compared to non-epidemic weeks, and the chances of dying from IHD increased by a tenth. This was the same for both men and women and in different age groups.
Researchers believe that flu causes an acute and severe inflammation in the body, which, in some patients, can destabilise atherosclerotic plaques  in coronary arteries and cause heart attacks.
Prof Madjid said: "Most people develop atherosclerotic lesions in their coronary arteries in early childhood and these lesions grow over time. Inflammation plays a pivotal role in development and growth of these lesions. Most people in Western countries live with different stages of atherosclerosis and many will never show any clinical manifestations of the atherosclerosis. However, in some patients the quiescent, stable atherosclerotic plaques undergo sudden changes, mainly due to exaggerated inflammation, leading to rupture of these vulnerable plaques and subsequent formation of clots resulting in heart attacks.
"This study shows that flu is an important trigger of heart attacks because flu is a severe infection, with high incidence rates and is readily preventable. Therefore, our results give us a new tool for preventing heart attacks.
"My public health message is that flu is an important killer in cardiac patien
Source:Oxford University Press