Still considering a flu shot this year? You may want to go for the needle for a reason other than avoiding influenza. A new study finds that the flu shot can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers found that the flu shot lowered the risk for a cardiovascular event by 36 percent and by 55 percent in those with a recent acute coronary syndrome, such as a heart attack or unstable angina, who got their shot within a year. The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"The highest-risk patient got the highest reward for getting the flu shot," said Jacob Udell, lead author, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and a scientist at the University of Toronto.
"The study is important because it reconfirms that there are benefits to getting the flu vaccination," said Dr. David Frid, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "Especially in people who have recently had a cardiac event, because it reduces the likelihood of their having some type of cardiovascular complication if they do develop the flu."
Udell also says that a stronger vaccine or a booster shot offered more protection against a cardiac event.
So how does the flu actually trigger a cardiac event?
It could be the "vulnerable plaque" theory, Udell said. This means that flu-related inflammation may transform a stable plaque into an unstable plaque and cause a cardiac event. The other reason is the "vulnerable patient" theory, which Udell says means that flu symptoms — coughing, low oxygen, low blood pressure, fast heart rate — or complications, such as pneumonia, may strain the heart and cause a cardiac event.
Flu shot: defender against a week of misery — and now, possible lifesaver.
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