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"Swine flu inflammation may trigger attack in heart patients"

Announcement  |  New Delhi 

Padmashree Dr. Balbir Singh, Senior Consultant, Electrophysiotherapy & Interventional Cardiology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital suggests heart patients to be more cautious against the swine flu outbreak

Dr. Balbir Singh, one of the leading names in electro physiotherapy and interventional cardiology in the country, suggests heart patients to be more cautious against the recent outbreak of swine flu. According to Dr. Singh, heart patients have a harder time when infected as compared to normal patients. Flu produces significant stress on the cardiovascular system like breathing difficulty, changes in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and even direct effects on the heart. All these factors make flu infections even more difficult, and ominous, especially for someone who has a heart ailment. Heart patients, who should be most cautious because they could face maximum risk owing to complications, are those with chronic conditions such as heart failure, or those with complex congenital heart disease who may not be able to bear any lung congestion.

“As of now, there is absolutely no proof whatsoever which indicates that people with heart disease are more vulnerable or prone to catch swine flu than those who do not have any heart ailment. However, if heart disease patients do happen to catch it, the probability that they may have an acute cardiac event increases. Swine flu, or for that matter any other form of flu, is a case of acute inflammation and we have enough medical evidence that suggests that heart attacks generally take place during or immediately post such acute inflammations,” says Dr. Singh.

“It is always better that heart patients seek professional help, medical advice and treatment at the very first signs of flu. If any of the symptoms show up, or for that matter if they suspect strong exposure, it is better that they visit the doctor and take antiviral drugs besides having their heart condition assessed,” adds Dr. Singh.

Cardiologists could face increased number of patients being admitted with heart attacks if the epidemic continues to spread and loom large, the manner in which it as of now in some parts of the country. As of know it has not been established whether swine flu is more ominous that other variety of flu but if you are a heart patient, any kind of flu is dangerous and therefore precaution is suggested.

Precautions to be taken by heart patients to prevent worsening of underlying chronic conditions:

  • Every year get vaccinated for Influenza (flu), it reduces the risk of acute cardiac event (vaccination by injection and not live attenuated vaccine given as nasal spray - as recommended by American heart Association)
  •  If you are in an area where flu has not become an epidemic yet, frequent washing of hands with soap or sanitizer and keeping away from visibly sick people is advised
  •  If flu has attained epidemic proportions in your area, restrict movement out of the home and avoid public gatherings in particular
  •  If you wish to wear a face mask, make sure it covers nose and mouth and forms a tight seal around (N95 masks recommended)
  •  Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  •  Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  •  If any of the flu symptoms show on you, do not try any over-the-counter drug (may contain decongestants which heart patients should avoid) and consult the doctor immediately, remind the doctor of your heart disease, take antiviral drugs (work best if taken within two days of symptoms)
  • Call for medical help immediately if you develop difficulty in breathing and this condition fails to improve in 3-4 days, or it worsens further especially after beginning to recover

 About Dr. Balbir Singh

Dr. Balbir Singh is one of the leading interventional cardiologists in India today. In the field of coronary interventions, Dr. Balbir Singh has performed nearly 2500 angioplasties including stenting procedures. He is one of the pioneers in the field of Radiofrequency ablation in India, a new modality for cure of arrhythmias – rapid beating of the heart, which was introduced in US and Europe in the early 1990s. Dr. Balbir Singh has performed over 600 radiofrequency ablation procedures. Over the period of last 5 years, he has to his credit over 25 publications in complex coronary procedures. He is presently working on intravascular ultrasound imaging from within the coronary arteries. Dr. Balbir Singh’s area of special interest is Angioplasty during acute phase of Myocardial Infraction (heart attack).

Dr. Balbir Singh started his career in interventional cardiology and electrophysiology at the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) as a faculty member in cardiology. Dr. Singh has held a number of senior positions in various prominent hospitals including Maulana Azad Medical College, LNJP Hospital, G.B. Pant Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Batra Hospital and Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre, New Delhi.

Dr. Singh has many awards and accolades to his credit, which include the prestigious Padamshree, Medical Excellence Award and Recognition Award in Interventional Cardiology, Sujoy B. Roy Best Young Investigator Award for research work in interventional cardiology.


First Published: Tue, August 18 2009. 12:44 IST