Third of people hospitalised last winter had heart condition.
People with heart conditions and other underlying health conditions were today urged to get their flu vaccination as early as possible this winter to protect themselves from an unpredictable virus.
The call comes after statistics revealed almost a third of people hospitalised with flu last winter had a heart condition, with the figure rising to half (50 percent) of those aged 45 or over.
With health professionals warning that there is a potential for this year's flu season to be serious, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Dr Gregor Smith urged those who are eligible to make getting the vaccine a priority.
Heart conditions put people at greater risk of becoming more seriously ill, with evidence highlighting that heart attacks happen more often during or immediately after having an acute, inflammatory illness such as flu.
This year, the free flu vaccine will be offered to over 1.8 million people in Scotland – as well as those with heart disease. People with health conditions which can make them more vulnerable to flu such as diabetes, asthma and bronchitis are being encouraged to make an appointment with their GP Practice.
The vaccine is also offered to those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, carers and healthcare workers.
Dr Smith said:
"The figures from last year's flu season highlight how vulnerable those with heart conditions can be to flu, and how hard it can hit.
"We are encouraging everyone at risk to protect themselves against flu this winter. The vaccine provides the best defence, and getting it early is vital, particularly as there is the potential for this year's flu season to be serious.
"We want to ensure more Scots than ever before are protected from flu. I'd encourage those eligible to make their flu vaccination a priority and book an appointment with their GP practice today."
John Thomson, from Kilmarnock, who had a heart attack and triple bypass 24 years ago made the decision to get vaccinated for the first time a few years ago after falling ill with flu on several occasions.
John, a founding member of the Killie Heartmates, an active cardiac exercise group said:
"I'd been advised to get my flu vaccine every year, but always put it off for one reason or another. After suffering some bad winters, where I battled the flu, I decided to get the vaccine before setting off on holiday to Australia one year. I've not had the flu since, and have continued to receive the vaccine every year.
"Given my cardiac history, I'm now surprised I took that chance. I'd advise anyone with a heart condition to consider getting the vaccine at their GP. I definitely feel more reassured heading into winter protected."
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland's Lead Advice Line Nurse, Laura Hasting said:
"If you live with, or care for anyone with a long term condition, it's vital to get the flu jab as soon as possible to keep well this winter."
To find out more about the flu vaccine and its benefits, visit immunisationscotland.org.uk/flu or call NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88.
The following groups are eligible for the flu vaccine:
• Those aged 65 years of age and over
• Those with a medical condition which puts them in an 'at risk' group such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, heart and lung diseases, or autoimmune disorders
• NHS Scotland workers are encouraged to get the vaccine to help protect themselves, their families, their colleagues, and patients who are potentially vulnerable to flu.
• Unpaid carers
• Pregnant women (including those with at risk conditions)
• Children aged 2-11 years old. 2-5 year olds and not yet in school will be vaccinated at their GP practice. 5-11 year olds will be vaccinated at school during the autumn term