Got the sniffles? A simple cold might not be your biggest health worry: Respiratory infections can raise your risk of a heart attack, a new study in the Internal Medicine Journal discovered.
In the study, researchers analyzed both recent and past respiratory infection information from 578 patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack. Seventeen percent of them reported symptoms of respiratory infection within seven days of their heart attack, and 21 percent within about a month beforehand.
They discovered that mild respiratory symptoms—say, like the common cold—increased the chances of having a heart attack within by nearly 14-fold within seven days. More serious respiratory issues, like flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia, raised the risk of heart attack by 17-fold.
“The data showed that the increased risk of a heart attack isn’t necessarily just at the beginning of respiratory symptoms, it peaks in the first 7 days and gradually reduces but remains elevated for one month,” study author Geoffrey Tofler, M.D., said in a press release.
It’s possible that respiratory infections can increase blood clotting and inflammation, potentially damaging blood vessels—which can trigger a heart attack, they believe.
Still, before you get freaked out, realize that the absolute risk that any one cold will trigger a heart attack—particularly in a healthy guy without major risk factors for heart disease—is still low, he said.
But it is important to recognize that it still can raise your risk, so it’s important to keep on the lookout for heart attack symptoms, and to seek quick medical care if you think you’re experiencing one.