Strokes and Flu: Who Knew?

Apparently I didn’t, but I found an article that explains the connection.

I am thinking about this because of the recent death of Harry Anderson, star of the TV show “Night Court” and other projects.  He was also an accomplished magician.

Yeah, I was a fan.  Loved “Night Court”, and tried to see the other shows he was in, as well as when he was on the old “Tonight Show” as a guest (here’s a link to one of his appearances).

Harry Anderson, bottom row

Anyway, Harry Anderson passed away on April 16 of this year (“Harry Anderson, 65, ‘Night Court’ Actor Who Bottled Magic Onscreen and Off, Dies”, Maya Salam, New York Times website, 4/16/18).

Cause of death was determined to be a “cardioembolic cerebralvascular accident”.  In layman’s terms, a stroke.  In his case, several strokes.  He passed in his sleep.

He had a bout of the flu months earlier, from which he never completely recovered.

My condolences to his family.

Aside #1: These days, when someone dies at 65, we see this as an early death.  People are expected to live to their 80’s, or thereabouts.  And when that someone who died is near your age, and is someone you admired, you take notice.

I wondered about the strokes.  What connection did the flu have, if any?  I mean, I knew you could get pneumonia as a complication of the flu, but stroke?  I had never heard of that.  So I went a-Googling.

I found lots of articles about stroke as a complication of the flu, but most just mentioned “inflammation” and didn’t go into details on the mechanism that causes the stroke.

Then I found The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website:

LDL cholesterol is quickly followed by white blood cells and thus begins the process of plaque formation, consisting mainly of cholesterol, fatty substances and waste products of cells. This leads to inflammation of the walls of the blood vessels resulting in continuous damage and growth of plaques.

This plaque formation starts decades earlier and as they grow in size they start to narrow the artery which then reduces blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle. This leads to angina or chest pain.

Plaques can be either stable or unstable, with unstable plaques are full of macrophages and foam cells and extracellular matrix separating the lesion from the arterial lumen or fibrous cap which becomes weakened and is prone to rupture.

When this cap becomes weakened and ruptures, this is the process we believe leads to the heart attack. When this layer of cells is damaged the inflamed plaque becomes exposed to the blood stream which leads to an overreaction within the body and a triggering of a blood clot within the artery. This then leads to either a partial or full blockage of blood-flow within the artery to the heart muscle causing heart damage.

The clots can also break off and travel to your brain, causing a stroke.

Inflammation due to the flu can aggravate and trigger that process.

Most people over 55 or so have a least a little bit of plaque in their arteries.  The only way you can really know for sure is to have something called a heart catheterization – which, I can tell you, is painful.

Aside #2: I had mine 2 years ago when I was in the ER for what I thought was “just” intractable vomiting, but it turned out I had what my cardiologist later told me was “a chemical heart attack”.

Heart catheterization shows your arteries clearly.  It’s well worth the discomfort if you want to know what shape your arteries are in.  They run a thin tube up through your artery until it reaches your heart, and they (and you, if you want) can see what your arteries look like.  They ran mine through the artery in my wrist.  Some people get theirs in their thigh.

Anyway, if you have blockage (due to the aforementioned plaque), the heart cath/angiogram (x-ray picture) will show that:

So, if you have plaque – and most people in their 60s do – having the flu can cause it to rupture, form a blood clot that then breaks off and heads for your heart (which will cause a heart attack) or your brain (which will cause a stroke).

Getting a flu shot can reduce your chances of getting the flu, and thus also reduce your chance of a stroke or heart attack as a complication of flu.

Now, I don’t know if Harry Anderson got a flu shot.  It’s possible he did, but contracted a strain of flu that the vaccine didn’t cover.  With over 100 strains of the flu, clearly it’s not possible at this time to make a vaccine to protect against all of them.

The CDC, however, acquires samples of the virus from actual flu patients, and on the basis of that analysis makes recommendations to the FDA for which strains to target.

Aside #3: Another reason we need to oppose any funding cuts for either the CDC or the FDA.

Here is a link that explains the entire process for selecting which viruses to include in the season’s vaccine.

However, I can say that, if someone doesn’t get a flu vaccine, they have a greater chance of contracting the flu than if they hadn’t gotten a flu vaccine.

I understand, not everyone can tolerate vaccines.  But if you can, please get one.  It’s not too late.

Aside #4: I got the first of 2 shingles vaccines last week, and my arm was hot, swollen, and very sore for a week.  I also felt like crap.  So yeah, vaccines can and do have side effects.

In fact, Influenza B is still around, and you can still get a shot to prevent it.  Here is the CDC link that gives you a weekly flu report.  If you can’t do that and are over 60, at least stay away from sick people or wear a mask or something.  Plus you could also bring wipes with you everywhere you go.

Because getting the flu at this age is not only uncomfortable, it can be deadly.

Weird news of the week:  Is there anything weirder right now than the meltdown of our so-called president? Today, he tweeted his intention to obstruct justice:

“A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal “justice?” At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” Twitter, 5/2/18, 10:45 AM

I don’t know what he thinks he can do – fire the entire DOJ?  Stage a military coup?  He could declassify the redacted parts and instruct the DOJ to hand over the documents, but considering that the documents in question are about an ongoing investigation – of him – that would just make the obstruction case stronger.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s reaction to the articles of impeachment against him being drawn up by some Congressional cover-up minions Republicans (Mark Meadows, North Carolina, and Jim Jordan, Ohio) was succinct:

“There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.” – “Trump Just Ominously Threatened the Justice Department, Alex Ward, Vox website, 5/2/18.

Should make for an interesting showdown.

Recommendation of the week: A website called Boing Boing, which is an eclectic site of news, information, opinion, and merchandise.  Worth a look, if only for the cartoon strip by “Tom the Dancing Bug” called “What Trump Supporters See”.

Be good.  Be kind.  Get your flu shot.

 

 

 

 

 

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