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Cold and flu season is well and truly upon us, and if you haven’t had your jab yet, you’ll want to after reading this. Shocking new research from the University of Sydney has found the common cold and flu could trigger a heart attack.

The study, published in the Internal Medicine Journal, asked 891 heart attack patients admitted to the Royal North Shore Hospital if they had experienced a flu-like illness in the week prior to their heart attack.

Startlingly, the researchers found that the risk of heart attack was 17 times higher in the seven days after a cold, flu or respiratory infection.

“Possible reasons for why respiratory infection may trigger a heart attack include an increased tendency towards blood clotting, inflammation and toxins damaging the coronary arteries, and changes in blood flow,” Professor Geoffrey Tofler explained to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The average age of our study population with a heart attack and prior respiratory infection was 56.4 years,” he said. “While many of the patients had at least one risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure (41 per cent) or high cholesterol (48 per cent), only about one in 10 (12 per cent) had a history of a previous heart attack, or previous stent (10 per cent).”

Surprisingly, the 17-fold risk increase affects everyone – not just those with an already high risk of heart attack due to family history or lifestyle factors. “While the overall risk would be higher in those who already have an elevated risk of heart attack, it also would include people who had no previous warning of heart disease.”

Dr Tofler recommends getting acquainted with the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, keeping in mind these may be different for women. He also suggests taking preventative measures such as the flu vaccine.

Have you ever suffered a heart attack before? Do you remember having a cold or flu beforehand? Share your experience with us in the comments below.