Your Flu Shot May Also Help Your Heart
Study found one-third lower risk of problems including heart attacks in vaccinated people
By Serena Gordon
TUESDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- If avoiding an achy, feverish week or so laid up with the flu doesn't motivate you to get a flu shot, a new study linking flu shots to a lower incidence of heart disease might persuade you to roll up your sleeve.
People in the study who got flu shots were one-third less likely to have heart issues, such as heart failure or a heart attack, compared to those who opted against vaccination. The flu shot was associated with an even greater reduction of heart problems if someone had heart disease to start with, according to the study.
"This is one further piece of evidence to convince patients to go out and get their flu shot," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jacob Udell, a cardiology and clinician scientist, at Women's College Hospital at the University of Toronto.
Results of the study are published in the Oct. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Past research has suggested a link between the influenza virus -- the virus that causes the flu -- and an increased risk of heart events. And, conversely, previous research done on the influenza vaccine has suggested an association between the vaccine and a reduced risk of heart issues. But, most of these studies were small and none looked specifically for a heart-protective effect from the influenza vaccine.
The flu vaccine is currently recommended for everyone over 6 months of age in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine is highly recommended for certain groups, including people with heart disease.
To get an idea of how well the vaccine might protect against heart events, the researchers reviewed all of the clinical trials done on the influenza vaccine from 1947 through mid-2013.
The investigators included six randomized clinical trials comprising nearly 7,000 people in their analysis. The average age of the study participants was 67, and about half were women. Just over 36 percent had a history of cardiac disease.