Woman getting flu shot

Vaccine may reduce cardiac risk

Get ready for your annual poke — a new study finds that the flu shot could help prevent heart attacks, strokes and other cardiac events, too.

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.

More news on the flu

Cold and flu season by the numbers
Eat right to sail through cold and flu season unscathed
Bipolar linked to flu in pregnancy

Tags:


Recommended for you