Q:  Mr. Pedometer, with all due respect, don’t you think you are exaggerating the supposed “dangers” of this year’s flu?  I haven’t had the flu since childhood, so I don’t bother to get the flu shot.

A:  You must be very optimistic to be willing to gamble on your health and lifespan. Nearly 100 people in California have died of the flu so far this season.  Those victims all were under the age of 65, and many of them were in excellent health…until they got the flu.

Perhaps you missed the article in the local newspaper this past week that cited a new study linking the flu to a dramatic increase in the chance of heart attack for older people.  Mike Stobbs of the Associated Press reported that “a new Canadian study found that risk was six times higher in the first week after flu is diagnosed, compared with the year before and after the flu bug hits.”  Results were published this last Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“How does the flu, a respiratory ailment with fever, coughs, and aches, trigger a heart attack?” asked the article.  “Flu can cause swelling or inflammation in the coronary arteries, which can shake loose plaque and cause blockages, cutting off blood flow….  Lung infections make it harder for people to breathe, so the heart has to pump harder to get oxygenated blood out to every part of the body.”

Consider yourself very fortunate if you have not had the flu in decades. However, you might also consider the fact that by not getting a flu shot, you might be endangering not only yourself, but others for whom the flu could be fatal.