How the Flu Can Make Chronic Conditions Worse

Amy Barczy

| 2 min read

Amy Barczy is a brand journalist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and writes for and Prior to joining Blue Cross, she was a statewide news reporter for She has a decade of storytelling experience in local news media markets including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor and Port Huron.

Flu season happens every year – and yet experts estimate only half of all adults in the U.S. receive their annual flu shot.
For most people, influenza, also known as the flu, is widely thought of as just a respiratory illness. However, researchers and medical professionals are learning more about the connection between the flu and how it can worsen a person’s existing chronic conditions. 
Older adults and people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, as well as those with compromised immune systems are vulnerable to severe illness from the seasonal flu.
Individuals with heart disease are more likely to develop complications from the flu, including pneumonia, bronchitis, and lung failure. Flu can also make other chronic conditions worse – like diabetes and asthma.

Preventing the flu

The flu shot is an important tool to help protect an individual’s health. Talk to your health care provider about if and when you need your annual flu shot.
The flu shot can both reduce the risk of you becoming ill from the virus, as well as lessen the severity of the illness should you get it.
Leading a lifestyle that supports your immune system – regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, finding ways to manage stress and quitting smoking – are all good ways to also maintain your heart health. 
For those with any chronic condition, including heart disease, it’s important to regularly see your health care provider to discuss the risks of influenza and the importance of vaccination. 
Photo credit: Getty Images

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