Need a new reason to get the seasonal flu vaccination this year? Here’s a good one. Not only does it lower the risk of flu, it could also prevent a heart attack. According to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, middle-aged and older people who got the influenza vaccine were less likely to suffer a heart attack.
Get a Flu Vaccination to Prevent a Heart Attack?
Researchers in the U.K. looked at the health records of almost 79,000 adults age 40 or over from various areas of England and Wales. After reviewing the records, they found that men and women who had received the seasonal flu vaccine in the past year were 19% less likely to have a first heart attack – and those who got the vaccine earlier (before mid-November) were 21% less likely to be a victim of a heart attack. This was true even after they took other risk factors for heart disease into account such as high blood pressure, smoking, and family history.
Why Would the Seasonal Flu Vaccine Help to Prevent a Heart Attack?
It may not be that that flu vaccine itself protects against heart attacks. Studies show that people are at a higher risk for a heart attack in the first two weeks after having a respiratory infection. Why would this be?
Many experts believe that infections cause inflammation, which can trigger a heart attack. Getting the seasonal flu vaccine helps to offset this risk by protecting against the infection with the flu virus. It’s also possible that some component in the vaccine itself has heart protective benefits, but this has yet to be determined.
Should You Get a Flu Vaccination?
Anyone who has a history of heart disease should consider getting the influenza vaccination. Inflammation associated with the flu not only increases the risk of a heart attack, but people who have heart disease are more likely to have complications from the flu.
The seasonal flu vaccine is safe for most people with heart disease, as long as they get the injection, not the nasal spray. The nasal spray (Flu Mist) contains live virus and isn’t the best choice for people with heart disease or other medical conditions.
The Bottom Line?
The seasonal flu vaccine is safe for most people and may do more than ward off the flu. Make sure you’re protected.
Eurekalert.org. “Seasonal flu vaccine lowers risk of first heart attack”
The Lancet, Volume 351, Issue 9114, Pages 1467 – 1471, 16 May 1998