Flu Vaccine Could Help Prevent Heart Disease
October 29, 2012

Getting A Flu Vaccine Is Also Good For Your Heart And Overall Health

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The health benefits of getting an influenza vaccine have long been touted by the medical community as a way to avoid falling ill during the flu season, but new research presented during the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress claims that there are other health benefits from doing so.

According to Dr. Jacob Udell, a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto, and colleagues, receiving a flu shot could help a person keep their cardiovascular system healthy while avoiding heart attacks and stroke.

In fact, Udell's team reviewed clinical trials dating back to the 1960s and discovered that the vaccine reduced a person's risk of suffering a major cardiac event by 50% versus a placebo over a one-year period. It also reduced death from any cause, heart-related or otherwise, by approximately 40%, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada said in a prepared statement.

"The combined studies examined a total of 3,227 patients, with an almost equal split between patients with and without established heart disease. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive flu vaccine and those that did not typically received a placebo vaccine," the foundation explained.

"Dr. Udell says these results provide support for current guideline recommendations for influenza vaccination of individuals with a prior heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk," they said. "And although it was encouraging to see a reduction in non-fatal cardiac events, he believes a large, lengthier multi-national study would comprehensively demonstrate the vaccine's effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events and save lives."

A similar study, conducted by a pair of cardiologists from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, studied the effect of the vaccine in patients with implantable cardiac defibrillators or ICDs. The researchers, Dr. Ramanan Kumareswaran and Dr. Sheldon Singh, polled patients with ICDs that visited their clinic between September 1 and November 31 of last year, asking them whether or not they had received flu shots, among other things.

Of the 230 patients between the ages of 70 and 74 who completed the survey, 179 or 78% said that they had received the vaccine, while just over 20% said that they had not. Those who did not receive a flu shot were more likely than their vaccinated counterparts to undergo a greater average number of ICD therapies, 13.7% to 10.6%.

"What is interesting is that if this is consistent over time, it could be of significant benefit to our patient population who already have compromised survival to start with," Dr. Singh said. "We would like to look at this on a larger scale to determine whether or not our results can be replicated. We're in the process to determine how best to do that."

The organization said that a survey conducted by the British Columbia and Quebec Lung Associations earlier this year revealed that only 36% of all Canadians received a flu shot in 2011. Likewise, they report that the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) found that in 2008, only 35% of 18 to 64 year olds suffering from chronic medical conditions were vaccinated.