Study: Flu vaccine protects against heart attacks

A new study shows the influenza vaccine protects against more than just the flu--it defends against heart attacks.

Dr. Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto, found those who received a flu shot reduced their risk of heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems by nearly half during a one-year follow-up period, HealthDay reports. Udell and his team studied more than 3,200 patients from 1994 to 2008. Some people were free of heart disease while others had recently had heart attacks or had stable cardiovascular disease or other coronary problems. Those who received a flu vaccine showed a 50% reduction in heart attack, stroke or other major cardiovascular events.

So how does this work? According to Udell, experts aren't quite sure. The vaccine may protect vulnerable patients already in poor health from falling more ill. And protection may also result from avoiding the inflammation that goes hand-in-hand with the flu. Either way, Udell said (as quoted by HealthDay), "it certainly lends support to a lot of clinical guidelines that recommend the flu vaccine to patients either with heart disease or after a heart attack."

Another study showed promising results for patients with implantable cardiac defibrillators. During flu season, those individuals report they get more shocks and need more medical attention than at other times of the year. Cardiologists from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto completed this study, finding that 11% of those who received the flu vaccine got at least one shock from their defibrillator during flu season. Compare that with the nearly 14% of those who did not receive the vaccine and got a shock from their defibrillator.

Less than 30% of U.S. adults aged 18 to 49 got vaccinated last flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

- read the HealthDay report