CardioSmart | Corner Cardiologists Play a Critical Role in Protecting Older Adults Against Flu

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Did you know that adults 65 years and older account for more than half (50-70 percent) of flu-related hospitalizations and most (85 percent) flu-related deaths?

The phenomenon known as immunosenescence describes how the body grows weaker with aging, making the immune system less effective in fighting off infections. As a result, adults ages 65+ may have an elevated risk of hospitalization and complications from flu. Older adults with chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, are at an even higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. In fact, among adults hospitalized with flu-related complications, cardiovascular disease is the most common chronic condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine annual influenza vaccination for all individuals ages 6 months and older, with a licensed age-appropriate vaccine. No preferential recommendation is made for one influenza vaccine product over another. There are safe and effective flu vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that are specifically designed for adults age 65 and older, including high-dose and adjuvanted vaccines, to provide protection against flu.

All health care professionals, especially cardiologists, play a critical role in helping to protect older patients against flu. For cardiology practices that offer influenza vaccines, outpatient visits are an excellent, but often missed, opportunity to provide the vaccine to patients age 65+. But even if the vaccine is not offered in the office, a recommendation is essential to ensuring patients are protected against flu, as older adults are more likely to get a flu shot if it is recommended by a physician.

To help health care professionals talk to their patients about the importance of annual influenza vaccination, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) has created a toolkit of resources as part of the “Care for Older Adults? Care About Flu!” campaign. The toolkit (includes a fact sheet of the risks of flu in older adults, an infographic to visually illustrate the unique risks and potential complications of flu among older adults, customizable scripts to help guide conversations with patients, a 30-second animated public service announcement video and additional resources to ensure that patients get the protection against influenza that they deserve. CardioSmart also has a list of key points about the flu vaccine to help patients compare options, make decisions and test their knowledge.

As leaders in the community, health care professionals are key to protecting older adults against flu. NFID and ACC are committed to providing easy-to-use education materials to aid in the prevention of flu.

Together, we can all #FightFlu. Your strong recommendation matters!

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William Schaffner, MD, is medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and Martha Gulati, MD, MS, FACC, is editor-in-chief for CardioSmart.

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Clinical Topics: Prevention

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Influenza Vaccines, Influenza, Human, Outpatients, United States Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.), Vaccination, Health Personnel, Aging, Hospitalization, Community Health Services, Immune System, Cardiovascular Diseases

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