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The risk doesn’t go away after pneumonia is gone. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows it can last for years. Older people hospitalized with pneumonia have four times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke or dying of heart disease in the month after their illness. The risk remains nearly 50 percent higher for 10 years.
Infections like pneumonia boost inflammation in the body – including inside the arteries. Blood can’t flow like it should and is more likely to clot and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Pneumonia can affect anyone, but some groups are more affected than others. People 65 and older have a higher risk. A weakened immune system, chronic lung disease and smoking cigarettes also boost the risk.
The pneumonia shot is the best way to protect against one kind of pneumonia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you get the shot if you:
Talk with your doctor to find out if you should have the pneumonia shot. Learn more about how to prevent pneumonia from the CDC.
Symptoms for pneumonia are a lot like the flu: headache, muscle aches and fever. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart, but people who have pneumonia often have a bad cough and trouble breathing.
If you do come down with the flu, you also have a risk for pneumonia. Help protect yourself by getting a flu shot each fall. The CDC urges all adults have a yearly flu shot. Ask your doctor about getting a yearly flu shot.
Other than trying to prevent pneumonia, there are small steps you can make to protect your heart in the long run. The American Heart Association suggests to:
Originally published 12/19/2018; Revised 2021
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