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How the Flu Vaccine May Help Your Heart

Published
November 15, 2012
Publication
Daily Health News
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An annual flu vaccination helps you ward off, well, the flu (duh!), but get this—two new studies show that it also may help shield you from heart attack and stroke.

Yep, we’re talking about protection from two of the top five leading causes of death.

Now, I know that the flu vaccination, which is usually administered in the form of a prickly needle, can be intimidating to many. (Personally, I always have to turn my head away when my doctor injects it!) In fact, about two-thirds of Americans skip it.

And some people are wary of the vaccine itself, thinking that it is not proven safe.

But please hear me out. If future research confirms that getting this one shot once a year provides this triple-whammy of health benefits—less risk for flu, heart attack and stroke—it’ll be harder than ever to say “no, thanks” the next time your doctor offers it to you.

Learn how it might guard your ticker, below—it’s an especially important read for anyone at high risk for cardiovascular problems and anyone with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD)…

VASCULAR VICTORIES

In one of the studies, half the participants had heart disease and the other half didn’t. Flu shots were administered randomly to half of all participants. And the stunning result was that those who got the shots (regardless of whether they had heart disease) had roughly 50% lower risk for having a “major cardiac event” such as a heart attack or stroke during the following year. Fifty percent!

The second study looked at heart disease patients who had implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs)—devices that monitor patients 24/7 and automatically try to fix irregular heart rhythms by delivering electric shocks—and while results were less dramatic, they were still pretty amazing. Among patients with ICDs who hadn’t gotten flu shots in the previous year, 13.5% of them needed one or more shocks from the device during flu season…whereas among those with ICDs who had gotten flu shots in the previous year, just 10.6% of them needed one or more shocks from the device during flu season.

Neither study addressed whether patients got the flu—researchers were solely analyzing heart-related outcomes.

FORTIFIED AGAINST FLU AND MORE

It’s interesting to think about how this completely common injection may act as powerful armor against such life-threatening health problems. How, exactly, might the flu vaccine provide such benefits? One theory is that when the body gets the flu, inflammation increases, which may cause blood clots. In other words, by helping to prevent the flu, the vaccine may help prevent this dangerous domino effect from occurring.