My personal health care provider, Amy Doneen, is great! We talked recently and she asked if I had my flu shot this year.
I know she cares about me because she quizzes me, holds me responsible for my health and works really hard for my well being. She’s vested in my longevity and treats me as the individual being I am. She knows I travel a fair amount and she believes that I’ll stick around this world longer if I get appropriate vaccines.
So, being the diligent doc I am and trying to lead by example, I said I got my flu vaccine two weeks ago. Then she made me feel even better by sharing some literature: influenza vaccines can reduce my risk of developing a blood clot in my legs. Interesting! In 2008, an American Heart Association study known as FAVIRE showed that in people with known history of cardiovascular and stoke disease, receiving a flu shot was associated with a 26% risk reduction for development of a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and a 48% reduction in people less than 52 year of age.
I know about Deep Vein Thrombosis. They are dangerous and common. I’ve cared for and worried about too many patients with DVTs over the years to not have respect for them.
DVTs are blood clots that develop in the deep veins of our lower extremities and to a lesser extent our upper extremities. When a chuck of the clot breaks off and migrates to the lungs, Pulmonary Embolism (PE) occurs. PEs obstruct blood flow and suffocate the lung tissue. Death can occur if the clot is large enough. Disability and long term anti-coagulates happen when the PE is less than deadly.
PEs are scary, they are medical emergencies and they happen all too often. Approximately 2 million Americans a year develop DVTs and of those, about 600,000 people will experience a PE. Worse yet, 10% of those or 60,000 of our friends and relatives will die each year from pulmonary embolisms. About 15% of all sudden death cases are from pulmonary embolisms yet, they are largely preventable.
What are the risk factors for developing them? Prolonged sitting in a car or airplane; bed rest; fractures; recent surgeries, especially of the lower extremities and abdomen; cancers; hormones and birth control pills; crossing of the legs; obesity; smoking and COPD; and recent childbirth.
What prevents them? Movement; stretching; support hose; ergonomic seats; hydration; blood thinners and behavioral changes. Maybe even a flu shot. It’s something simple, cheap and has positive side benefits. Why not?
One caveat. Many people resist flu vaccines because they say they react to them and get the flu from them.
All influenza vaccines given by injection are inactivated viruses, meaning they are dead virus and incapable of replicating and infecting. They work by fooling the body into developing an immune response. It’s my belief that many of the reactions people develop are due to the preservatives in the vaccine, such as thimerosal, or mercury. In Washington State, we don’t allow thimerosal in pediatric vaccines so why not make your vaccine thimerosal free, especially if you’ve had a reaction in the past?
Amy Doneen a brilliant Nurse Practitioner lectures nationally and internationally on cardiovascular and stroke prevention. When she speaks, doctors and patients listen and I listen because I feel safer when I know I am doing what I can to control my health care destiny. What can you do to control your destiny?
To your good health,