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Despite Serious Health Risks, One in Three Adults with Heart Disease Does Not Believe They Need a Flu Shot This Year

DALLAS, Nov. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Death resulting from influenza, often referred to as "the flu," is more common among individuals with heart disease than among patients with any other chronic medical condition. However, according to a new nationwide survey of heart disease patients conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Mended Hearts, Inc., a national heart patient support group affiliated with the American Heart Association (AHA), more than one in three heart disease patients (37%) do not plan to get a flu shot this year. In fact, only half (53%) received their flu shot last year, despite their serious medical condition(s). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and its severe complications. In an effort to narrow the awareness gap, Mended Hearts has launched I Heart Flu Shots(TM), a campaign designed to educate heart disease patients about the serious, and potentially deadly risk they are taking by not getting a flu shot every year.

"As a long time member of Mended Hearts and as a heart disease patient, I know how important it is to have the tools necessary to keep our hearts as healthy as possible," said Donnette Smith, national Mended Hearts board member. "Heart disease is something that we have to think about on a daily basis, so I do not want to be concerned about getting the flu as well. The flu shot is a simple and important preventive step that we, as heart patients, may not think about in terms of our heart health when actually, the flu shot enables us to once again take our heart health into our own hands."

The survey findings reinforce the data collected by the CDC which found that only one in three adults with heart disease received the flu vaccine in 2005. The AHA and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recommend that the 12 million people in the U.S. with cardiovascular conditions receive an annual flu shot. Other authorities, including the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), recommend people at high-risk for serious flu-related complications, including people who suffer from heart disease, get vaccinated to protect against the flu every year. The AHA and ACC recognize the value of flu shots as part of complete care for patients with heart disease and have issued an advisory urging all cardiologists to make flu shots available in their clinics as well as to strongly encourage their patients to get the flu shot.

"It is startling that only one in three adults with heart disease are taking a simple precaution to help prevent the flu," said Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.H.A., F.A.C.P. "For those people over 65 years of age living with heart disease, flu shots can reduce hospitalization length, medical costs and work absenteeism, making them a simple and cost-saving treatment option. An ounce of prevention goes a long way -- it is as simple as that."

The target goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is to vaccinate 60 percent of people with heart disease under age 65, and 90 percent of everyone 65 and over, many of whom have heart disease. Studies have found that annual flu vaccinations can prevent death in patients with chronic heart conditions. According to AHA and ACC recommendations, patients with

heart disease are advised against receiving the live, attenuated vaccine, which is administered as a nasal-spray.

About Flu

The flu is easily passed from one person to another through the air by droplets released when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, but may also be spread by direct contact with influenza virus-contaminated surfaces. The flu is a highly contagious and potentially deadly infection that affects up to 20 percent of the total U.S. population each flu season. In past years, flu has caused about 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations annually. Most of these deaths occur in people 65 years of age and older.

The flu can worsen underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, as well as lead to co-infections with other viruses and bacteria. The flu can exacerbate heart disease conditions and can lead to conditions like viral or bacterial pneumonia that cause complications of heart disease. Recent studies have found that the flu may trigger up to 92,000 cardiac deaths per year nationwide.

According to the CDC, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against the flu. Groups who are at risk for serious complications include the very young, people 50 years of age or older, the chronically ill, and women who will be pregnant during flu season. Additionally, people who live with or care for persons at high-risk of complications (including all healthcare workers) should get vaccinated to help them stay healthy and avoid infecting others.

The beginning, severity and length of the flu season can vary widely from year to year. While October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, getting the flu vaccine later can still be beneficial in most years because influenza activity usually peaks between December and March.

For more information about I Heart Flu Shots(TM), visit

About Mended Hearts

Mended Hearts is a community-based, nationwide heart patient support group affiliated with the American Heart Association and founded more than 50 years ago. More than 20,000 members operate through 275 local chapters across the United States with two in Canada. Recognized for its role in facilitating a positive patient-care experience, Mended Hearts partners with 425 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics to offer heart patient services through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums. Mended Hearts is dedicated to inspiring hope in heart disease patients and their families. Mended Hearts Inc. received funding and other support from GlaxoSmithKline for the I Heart Flu Shots(TM) initiative.

About the Survey

This study was conducted online within the United States on behalf of Mended Hearts between September 21 and September 25, 2007 among 2,199 U.S. adults ages 18+, of whom 876 have been diagnosed with heart disease (high cholesterol, high blood pressure or hypertension, heart attack, heart failure and/or stroke) by a healthcare professional.

Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to be invited to participate in the Harris Interactive online research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Contact: Sheryl Trager


SOURCE Mended Hearts
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