Heart Disease Risk Lowered by Flu Vaccine, Study Says


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New studies show that the flu vaccine might play an important role in reducing the risk of heard disease, including the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers from Toronto this week unveiled the research at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress. They found that the flu vaccine provided around a 50% reduction in the risk of a "major cardiac event," such as a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death when compared to a placebo. This result was seen both in patients with heart disease and those without. Also, they found around a 40% risk reduction for dying from any cause was linked to the flu vaccine.

"For those who had the flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction," said Dr. Jacob Udell, cardiologist at Women's College Hospital. Udell's team at the TIMI Study Group and Network for Innovation in Clinical Research led the research.

The study looked at published clinical trials dealing with heart disease and the flu vaccine dating back to the 1960s. The combined trials had 3,227 patients, of which half were randomly assigned to receive the flu vaccine.

Udell stated that these results reinforce the current guideline recommendations for vaccinating patients with prior heart attacks. He also believes that a large multi-national study could help demonstrate the flu vaccine's use for heart care.

The use of the vaccine is still much too low, less than 50 per cent of the general population; it's even poorly used among health care workers," said Udell. "Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease."

Another study announced this week showed that people with implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) who receive a flu shot have fewer "adverse events" than those who don't.

"Anecdotes suggest that patients have more ICD shocks during flu season," said Dr. Ramanan Kumareswaran of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. "We were trying to figure out what we can do to reduce the amount of shocks in (our clinic's) ICD population during the flu season."