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Flu Season 2013

The flu shot, heart disease, and you.

With flu season quickly approaching, doctors and public health officials are encouraging you to roll up your sleeve and get the flu shot. This year, research is focusing on even more reasons than ever to protect yourself — and it has nothing to do with sore throats or runny noses. A new study is shifting focus to why it’s especially important for people who already have, or who are at risk of, heart disease to get their flu shot.

The study, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association,  found that getting a flu shot reduces the odds of having a heart attack, stroke, other major cardiac events, and possibly death over the following year.

Researchers discovered that those who have had the flu vaccination were 36% less likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. They also found that people who recently experienced a heart attack had a 55% less likely chance of another cardiac event when given the flu shot. Researchers pointed out that the greatest effect was seen among the highest-risk patients with more active coronary disease.

So why did the patients have a lower risk with the flu shot? Researchers need to conduct a large trial to know for certain, but they concluded it may have something to do with the inflammatory effect that accompanies the flu and the likelihood of resulting complications for the heart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone older than six months should get vaccinated against the flu. They stress that the shots are especially important for:

  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone older than 65 years
  • Children older than 6 months and younger than 5 years
  • People at risk of complications
  • Those with compromised immune systems

Even if you don’t have extra risk factors, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Talk to your doctor about getting the flu shot before you come down with symptoms that may lead to other complications. You won’t only be protecting yourself — but also anyone you come into contact with!

C20131031-04

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