A recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of American Medical Association revealed that a flu shot significantly reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke for individuals who had prior cardiac disease.
The flu vaccine may, in the future become a vaccine for the prevention heart attacks.
Dr Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital commented “the flu vaccine may also be a vaccine against heart attacks”.
The results of the study are promising in that the study participants either had heart disease or risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. The exciting news is that those who received the flu shot who recently suffered from a heart attack had a 55% lower risk of having a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. According to the study the higher your cardiovascular risks the greater the benefits your heart may receive from the flu shot (Udell et al., 2013)
The benefits do not stop with those who have experienced a heart attack. Individuals who have been diagnosed with heart disease also benefited from the flu shot as they demonstrated an overall 36% reduction in risk of major cardiac events. It is important to note that a booster shot offered an increase in protection and decreased the likelihood of a major cardiac event by almost 30%.
There are several theories as to why the flu shot helps to protect against cardiac events according to Udell. One is the "vulnerable plaque theory” as the flu produces inflammation it results in stable plaque to become unstable resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
Another is the "vulnerable patient theory". Symptoms as a result of the flu, for example coughing, rapid heart rate and possible pneumonia, put an additional may burden on the heart resulting in a cardiac event.
The health care community recommends that everyone receive a flu shot. This is especially true for those with cardiac disease based on the data presented in the study. As the potential for the use of the flu shot to reduce cardiac events is explored it is important to review, according to the CDC flu-associated deaths (CDC, 2013). Here in the state of New Hampshire Pneumonia and influenza-related deaths accounted for 6.6% of deaths, for week 2 ending January eleventh. In addition Thirty-three respiratory specimens were submitted for laboratory testing during week 2, and twenty-two were positive for 2009 influenza A (H1N1). Eleven were negative. NH reported ‘regional’ flu activity for week 2 (DHHS, NH, 2014).
With or without cardiac risks as a factor the data presents just one more reason for you to get out and get vaccinated!
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Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Estimating Seasonal Influenza- Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm
Department of Health and Human Services(2014). Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report. Retrieved from http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/influenza/documents/weeklyflu.pdf
Udell, J. A., Zawi, R., Bhatt, D. L., Keshtkar-Jahromi, M., Gaughran, F., Phrommintikul, A., Ciszewski, A., Vakili, H., Hoffman, E.B., Farkouh, M.E., Cannon, C.P. (2013). Association Between Influenza Vaccination and Cardiovascular Outcomes in High-Risk Patients. Journal of American Medical Association. 310(16):1711- 1720. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279206. Retrieved from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1758749