Getting a flu shot can reduce the risk of middle-aged people having a heart attack or stroke, a study found.
Over-50s who were vaccinated were 28 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 47 percent less likely to have a mini-stroke.
Scientists called the results – based on data from 7 million people – ‘staggering’ and said they shed light on how useful the flu shot can be.
It protects against getting sick from the flu, but also against the life-threatening complications that come with it.
Being infected with influenza can put a lot of strain on the body, which in rare cases can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
But many people are unaware of these serious dangers, doctors say, and don’t bother getting vaccinated.
It comes after yesterday’s research that suggested flu vaccines may reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Over 50s can prevent potentially fatal heart attack or stroke from getting the flu, a study finds (stock)
Texas Tech University’s study looked at more than seven million American adults over the age of 50.
All were once hospitalized and were part of the National Inpatient Sample 2014, the largest database of U.S. hospitals.
Participants were considered particularly vulnerable to the flu because they were over 50 years old, had HIV / AIDS, lived in nursing homes, or were obese.
Experts examined cardiovascular outcomes between patients who were vaccinated during hospitalization and those who did not.
FLU PROGRAM EXTENDED DURING COVID-19
The government plans to double its winter flu vaccination program to 30 million people this year, with free injections for all over-50s and children up to age 11.
Last year, about 15 million people were injected with seasonal flu, but ministers hope it will reach 30 million this winter.
Experts are concerned about the impact of a double blow from Covid-19 cases and seasonal flu that may overwhelm the NHS.
There are also concerns that people may suffer from seasonal flu and Covid-19 at the same time.
So the Department of Health and Social Care hopes that an increase in the number of people who receive flu vaccines means fewer flu patients will take up space in hospitals and the NHS will have more time to interact with coronavirus patients.
The injection is usually offered to people over 65, preschool and primary school children and pregnant women or people with health problems such as asthma.
As part of an unprecedented drive, a free flu vaccine will also be available this year to:
- People on the Shielded Patient List and members of their household;
- All school year groups up to and including year 7;
- People over 65, pregnant women, people with pre-existing conditions, including a risk under 2 years old.
The vaccinated adults aged 50 years and older had better results in the year following vaccination.
They had a 28 percent lower risk of heart attack, a 47 percent lower risk of TIA – a “mini-stroke” – and an 85 percent lower risk of cardiac arrest.
Similar trends were seen in people in the other risk groups, but these findings have not yet been reported.
There is some evidence that heart attacks and strokes are more common during or immediately after an acute inflammatory disease, such as the flu, but this is uncommon.
Any lung disease puts a strain on the vascular system, so reducing the risk of heart disease or stroke can help prevent flu.
A large study in 2007 found that winter infections like the flu can double the risk of heart attacks and strokes, with patients twice as likely to be affected the week after they become infected.
The comprehensive study was conducted by scientists from the London Statistics of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Unit Medical Statistics, who examined two million patients registered with approximately 500 primary care physicians.
Of the approximately 11,000 heart attack cases, 84 people had a respiratory infection (0.8 percent) and in the controls the week before, compared with 34 of the 11,000 people in the control group (0.3 percent).
Flu vaccination has already been linked to a lower rate of heart disease in people with heart disease, who are at a higher risk of becoming more seriously ill with the flu than the general population.
Initial results from the latest study, led by Roshni Mandania, were presented at the Basic American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2020 Scientific Sessions.
Ms Mandania said, “The results we have found are amazing. The positive effect of the flu vaccine on serious cardiac complications is difficult to ignore.
“Some people don’t consider flu vaccinations to be necessary or important, and many may experience barriers to access to health care, including getting the flu vaccine.”
DO FLU JABS CUT ALZHEIMER’S RISK?
Flu vaccines may reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research suggested yesterday.
A study of 9,000 people found that those who had only a single flu vaccine were 17 percent less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than those who had never been vaccinated.
And those who got a flu shot every year saw their risk drop by another 13 percent.
Experts described the finding as “intriguing,” but remained confused about how influenza vaccination reduces the risk of dementia.
Some believe that the jab can strengthen the general immune system and provide some protection to the brain when it is vulnerable to deterioration.
It is also possible that a serious infection, such as a severe flu attack, can accelerate the onset of dementia in those who are already at risk.
Doctors emphasize that anyone at risk of dementia – especially the elderly – should be vaccinated against flu regardless of this study.
Of the seven million patients studied, only 168,325 – or 2.4 percent – had received the flu vaccine.
Vaccination rates were lower in the risk groups than in the general population, the preliminary findings show.
Adults 50 and older were significantly less likely to be vaccinated compared to the general population (1.8 percent versus 15.3 percent).
The vaccination coverage for patients with HIV / AIDS was 2.21 percent versus 8.2 percent free of the virus or disease.
Only 1.8 percent of the nursing home residents received an injection, compared to 9.5 percent of people living independently.
And in obese patients, only 2.4 percent were vaccinated, compared to nine percent of adults who were at a healthy weight.
Some individuals may have received the flu vaccine on an outpatient basis and therefore may not be included in hospital records.
“Nevertheless, our study highlights the clear underutilization of influenza vaccine in at-risk groups and underlines the need for a health care policy initiative to increase influenza vaccinations in all patients and especially at-risk groups,” Mandania said.
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Heart Association for Prevention, said, “All adults and all children should generally receive flu vaccinations year after year.
‘Getting the annual flu vaccine is especially important for patients with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes or emphysema.
“The potentially serious complications of the flu are much, much greater for people with chronic diseases.”