Heart and the flu: Know the signs before it kills you

Did you know the flu can attack your heart?

MIAMI – This has been one of the longest flu seasons in 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's estimated 25 million Americans have been affected.

Did you know the flu can attack your heart?

Meet one man who nearly ended up on the heart transplant list and why he warns not to ignore the signs.

Alfino Donastorg has always been active, but two years ago he got sick.

"I thought it was just a common cold," said Alfino.

When Alfino became short of breath, he ended up in the hospital.

"They were telling me my heart was failing, heart transplant is imminent," he said.

Alfino had cardiomyopathy -- a weakening of the heart muscle that led to congestive heart failure at age 38.

"He was a healthy young man who was just exposed to the flu and it attacked his heart," said Dr. Yordanka Reyna, a cardiologist who specializes in advanced heart failure and transplant.

Reyna said the flu causes inflammation that can quickly lead to cardiac symptoms.

"Shortness of breath, leg swelling, a cough at night," Reyna said.

Reyna said heart disease due to flu can happen to anyone, so if you think you have the flu, get help.

"Go to the emergency room, go to their doctors, they will be tested very easily and very fast," Reyna said.

Reyna worked to keep Alfino off the heart transplant list.

"We managed to get him better with intravenous medicines, diuretics," she said.

Alfino still can't believe how close he came to death.

"Your body tells you, 'Hey, listen. There's something that's not right, please get checked out," Alfino said.

Alfino's message to everyone: don't ignore the signs.

Alfino will continue to be closely monitored and will most likely be on heart medications the rest of his life. He said his next goal is to travel to Japan and climb Mount Fuji.

Reyna reminds everyone to get vaccinated for the flu every season because the strains change. She said if you do have the flu and you're taking an anti-viral medication like Tamiflu but don't improve within a week, call your doctor or get to the emergency room.

For more information on the flu and heart disease, click here.