Your Flu Shot May Also Help Your Heart
Study found one-third lower risk of problems including heart attacks in vaccinated people
The researchers found that those who received an influenza vaccine were 36 percent less likely to have a heart event than those who hadn't had a vaccine.
When the researchers looked at just the three trials that included people with recent heart disease, they found an even greater potential protective effect. People with recent heart problems who got the flu vaccine were 55 percent less likely to have another event compared to those who didn't get the vaccine.
The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was nearly 20 percent lower for those who received the flu vaccine versus those who hadn't, according to the study.
Udell said this study wasn't designed to prove that influenza vaccine can lower heart disease risk, but he said that the researchers believe they've come close to proving cause and effect without conducting a clinical trial specifically designed to look for a protective effect from the flu vaccine.
"We would like to do a randomized clinical trial so that a skeptical public can put the issue to rest," Udell said.
The researchers believe that the vaccine protects against heart disease by preventing influenza and its accompanying inflammation. "When you get the flu, the body mounts an inflammatory response. Those aches and pains you feel with the flu are part of the immune response. That inflammation may trigger plaques in the arteries to erupt," Udell explained.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City, agreed that preventing the inflammation associated with the flu is the likely reason that getting a flu vaccine reduces the risk of heart problems.
"People always ask me what they can do for themselves. I say get a flu shot; it will protect your heart, too. This study provides a compelling argument for getting the shot," Steinbaum said.