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The Flu Can Be Extra Rough If You Already Have Heart Problems

A new study shows a link between the flu and heart attacks, especially in people over the age of 65.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The flu can be dangerous for people of any age, but if you're over 65, you may have a higher risk of heart attack. 

Chances of a heart attack are increased six-fold during the first seven days after getting the flu, according to a new study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario.

Dr. Tom Schlater, with St. Vincent Neighborhood Hospital in Indianapolis, says this risk is especially high in older people:

"These are usually people over 65 [with] risk factors of heart disease: high blood pressure, perhaps diabetes, perhaps obese, perhaps high cholesterol."

Also at risk are people with influenza B or other respiratory viruses and people who are experiencing their first heart attack.

If you get the flu and develop chest discomfort, chest heaviness, trouble breathing and fatigue, you should see your doctor--and don't wait.

"If you're feeling bad, you don't want to infect other people, and you want to get evaluated right away," Dr. Schalter says.

The State Health Department says that of the 167 people who have died this flu season, 128 of them were over the age of 65.

(Photo by Brian A. Jackson/Thinkstock.)

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