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Flu shot linked to reduced risk of heart disease and fatalities

Category: Infectious Diseases

New studies presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress showed that receiving the influenza vaccine may help reduce the risk of heart disease and death.

The research looked at 3,227 subjects, half of whom had a history of heart disease and had been part of ongoing studies since the 1960s. Half of the subjects were issued the flu shot, while the other half were given a placebo. The results showed that participants who were given the vaccine were 50 percent less likely to suffer from cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke.

Research author Jacob Udell, M.D., a cardiologist at Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto, noted that the findings supported previous claims that people who have suffered a heart attack should get the flu vaccine. But he also reported that a larger international study should occur to provide concrete evidence of the shot's benefits, besides its ability to ward off the flu, which can be detected with a lab test.

According to Udell, the rates of people getting the vaccine are not high enough, and this research may help increase those numbers.

"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 healthcare workers," Udell said. "Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease."

Vaccine facts
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone older than 6 months should get the flu vaccine, especially high-risk groups like pregnant women, people who are 65 years and older and patients with asthma, diabetes or chronic lung disease.

Deaths linked to influenza fluctuate every year, the CDC reports. Between 1976 and 2007, the number of flu-associated deaths per season has ranged from 3,000 people to 49,000 people, and 90 percent of these deaths are in people who are at least 65 years old.

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