If you have heart disease, staying up to date with recommended vaccines is as important to your health as diet and exercise.
People with heart disease and those who have suffered from strokes are at higher risk for serious complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases.
Getting COVID-19, influenza (flu), pneumonia, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. These diseases can cause inflammation, which can lead to blood clots and blocked arteries in people with heart disease.
Heart disease can make it harder for your body to fight off disease and can increase the risk of serious complications from certain diseases.
Diseases that cause people to have trouble breathing or high fever can also strain the heart.
What Vaccines Do People with Heart Disease Need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for people with heart disease:
Everyone age 6 months and older should stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.
One study found that people with COVID-19 were 3-8 times more likely to have a heart attack and 3-7 times more likely to have a stroke. Other research has found that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
Although some COVID-19 vaccines have been linked to rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, according to the American Heart Association, the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh the risks.
Everyone age 6 months and older should get vaccinated against flu every year.
People with heart disease are 6 times more likely to have a heart attack within a week after getting flu. For those with heart disease, getting an annual flu vaccine is just as important as monitoring and controlling blood pressure and taking statins to control cholesterol.
Read more about flu in people with chronic health conditions
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can attack different parts of the body and can cause pneumonia (lung infection), bacteremia (blood infection), and meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).
People with heart disease are at increased risk of hospitalization and even death from complications of pneumococcal disease.
Pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for:
- All children younger than age 2 years
- All adults age 65 years and older
- Individuals age 2 to 64 years with certain chronic health conditions or other risk factors
Read more about pneumococcal disease in people with chronic health conditions
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that infects the nose, throat, lungs, and breathing passages. Although it typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, RSV can be serious for infants, young children, and older adults, and can lead to severe illness and hospitalization.
Research has found that about 20% of adults who are hospitalized with RSV have health issues such as heart attacks and heart failure.
If you are pregnant or age 60 years or older, talk with a healthcare professional about getting vaccinated against RSV.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Everyone age 2 months and older should be vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Most infants receive a combined vaccine called DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis). Adults, older children, and adolescents should receive a booster of the combination vaccine, Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis) or Td (tetanus-diphtheria), every 10 years. Pregnant women should also receive a dose of Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.
These vaccines protect against 3 potentially serious diseases:
- Tetanus can cause severe muscle spasms, leading to “locking” of the jaw, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. In severe cases, tetanus infections can lead to death.
- Diphtheria can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis, and sometimes death
- Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause coughing spells that are so severe that it can be hard to breathe, sleep, or eat
Talk with a trusted healthcare professional about recommended vaccines. If your healthcare professional does not offer the vaccines you need, ask for a referral to ensure you get all of the vaccines recommended for you.
Reviewed January 2024
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association