New studies show that the flu vaccine may play a significant part in reducing the risk of heart disease. Researchers from Toronto reported that the vaccine provided around a 50 percent reduction in the risk of a “major cardiac event,” such as a heart attack, stroke or cardiac death when compared to a placebo.
Dr. Jacob Udell, cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital, said “For those who had the flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction.” Udell aslso believes that a large multi-national study could help demonstrate the flu vaccine’s use for heart care.
However, less than 50 percent of the general population actually gets the flu vaccine. According to Udell, “It’s even poorly used among health care workers. Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease.” He went on to say, “These findings support current guideline recommendations that patients with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease should get an annual flu shot, with now an additional potential benefit.”
It is not yet clear how exactly the flu vaccine protects the heart. However, when the body is fighting off the flu, the body’s immune system often increases inflammatory reactions that can lead to blood clots or trigger rupture of plaques that in turn can cause heart attacks. It’s possible that this flu vaccine prevents that inflammation that has the potential to aggravate unstable plaques in the heart.
The American Heart Association urges everyone ages six months and older to receive the flu vaccine, especially high risk individuals such as children, seniors, pregnant women, people with disabilities, people who have health conditions and those who travel abroad.
Suddenly, that big needle doesn’t seem as scary if it's helping to reduce your risk for heart disease.