Flu season is a particularly dangerous time for those with existing health conditions and, according to the Mayo Clinic, “death from influenza (flu) is more common among people with heart disease than among people with any other chronic condition.” Evidence suggests that heart attacks in the United States occur more often during peak flu season- between November and March.
According to Business Week, U.K. researchers found that adults that are “at least 40 years old” and were “vaccinated during the flu season showed a 20 percent reduction in first heart attacks within a year, compared with patients who didn’t get shots.” Even when preexisting health conditions (like hypertension and diabetes) and family history of heart disease were accounted for researchers still calculated a 19 percent reduction in the odds of heart attack within the year for those who were vaccinated as compared to those with no vaccination. And those patients vaccinated earliest in the season showed the greatest reduction in risk; there was a 21 percent decrease in likelihood of heart attack for those who got vaccinations before mid-November compares to a 12 percent decrease for those who received shots later in the season.
So why the big health benefit? Scientists have a few theories. One theory as to why the flu vaccination protects against heart attack is that it prevents the “inflammatory reaction” caused by infection. Respiratory infections, like influenza, can trigger blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks in weakened patients.
Ultimately these findings support current US recommendations that everyone over the age of six months receive an annual influenza vaccination. The experts at the Center for Disease Control, especially encourage those with chronic health issues and adults over the age of 65 to get the shot.
While the research cannot prove that the flu shot itself prevents heart attacks, it reinforces evidence that flu infection can trigger heart attacks, and that preventing flu infection through vaccination can potentially lower the risk of complications like heart attacks. At the very least, we hope this research encourages more people to get vaccinated.
For those interested in getting a flu vaccine- Bon Secours is holding a “Drive Thru, Prevent the Flu” event on October 16th at each of our five locations from 9am until supplies run out. You don’t even have to leave your car! Shots are $20 each and those with Medicare will be fully covered. For more information check our website and Facebook page.
+ Find out more about the Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute and Cardiac Care services
+ Boost your health knowledge at a Bon Secours Health Event
The Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/flu-shots/HB00086
Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-09-20/seasonal-flu-shot-lowers-heart-attack-risk-u-k-study-finds.html